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orth Carolina Muse 

|^-3- 5 

Copyright 1993 

North Carolina Museum of Art 
Raleigh, North Carolina 
All rights reserved 
ISSN 0029-2567 
LC 64-3282 
Published annually, 
one volume per year, 
$7 per issue 

This publication is supported by a grant from 
the Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Additional 
support is provided by the Newington- 
Cropsey Foundation as part of their ongoing 
educational programming. 

North Carolina Museum of Art 
2 1 1 o Blue Ridge Road 
Raleigh, North Carolina 27607-6494 
(919) 833-1935 


Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), Indian 
Fantasy (detail), 1914. Oil on canvas, 
46 "/n x 39V16 in. (118. 6 x 99.7 cm.), 
unsigned. North Carolina Museum of 
Art. Purchased with funds from the 
State of North Carolina, 75.1.4. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin 

Volume XVI, lggj 

2 The Past into the Present: 

William Ranney's First News of the 
Battle of Lexington 

Mark Thistlethwaite 

14 On the Road: 

Louis Remy Mignot's Landscape in Ecuador 

Katherine E. Manthorne 

32 A Problem of Perspective: 

Winslow Homer, John H. Sherwood, 
and Weaning the Calf 

Linda J. Docherty 

50 Indian Fantasy. 

Marsden Hartley's Myth of Amerika 
in Expressionist Berlin 

Patricia McDonnell 

Raleigh, North Carolina 



MAR 15 1994 


Fig. i 

William Tylee Ranney (1813-1857), 
First News of the Battle of Lexington, 1847. 
Oil on canvas, 44 7i* x 63 Vu in. (ill. 9 x 
160.8 cm.), signed RANNEY/ 1847 at 
lower left. North Carolina Museum of 
Art. Purchased with funds from the 
State of North Carolina 52.9.25. 


The Past into the Present: 

William Ranney's 

First News of the Battle of Lexington 

Mark Thistlethwaite 

Tl\e tidings spread - men galloped from town to town beating the drum 
and calling to arms. The people snatched their rifles and fowling pieces, and 
hurried towards Boston. The voice of war rang through the land, and prepa- 
rations were every where commenced for united action. 1 

This stirring account appeared in the 
American Art-Union publications of 1847 to describe William 
Ranney's First News of the Battle of Lexington (fig. 1). The artist, 
although little known today, gained wide recognition in his own time 
as a painter of Western scenes, genre paintings, and historical subjects. 
A close examination of First News of the Battle of Lexington offers not 
only a fuller understanding of this work but also the opportunity to 
consider Ranney and his art in its historical context. Born in 
Middletown, Connecticut, in 1813, William Tylee Ranney was the son 
of Clarissa and William Ranney, a sea captain lost at sea in 1829. 2 As an 
adolescent, the young William moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina, 
where he commenced a business career under the auspices of his uncle, 
William Nott. Apparently not suited to such a vocation, Ranney soon 
apprenticed to a tinsmith, with whom he worked for six years. 3 It is not 
clear whether his artistic inclinations surfaced at this time or not, but in 
1833 or 1834 he moved to Brooklyn and began practicing art. His art 
interests were interrupted in 1836 when, just six days after the fall of 
the Alamo, he traveled to New Orleans to join the Texas Republic 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Army. 4 Ranney served for almost nine months and 
attained the rank of paymaster. 

In 1837 he traveled back to Brooklyn and 
resumed his art studies. The next year, his first work 
of art to be exhibited — a portrait — appeared in the 
National Academy of Design in New York City. 
Virtually nothing is known of Ranney's life and career 
between 1839 and 1842. His name does appear in 
New York City directories for 1 843-1 845 as a "portrait- 
painter." Few of his portraits survive, and as a con- 
temporary article stated, he gave up the practice of por- 
traiture "for the higher one of historical painting. "5 

Ranney married Margaret Agnes O' Sullivan in 
1848, and two years later their first child, William, was 
born. The year 1850 also saw the artist elected as an 
associate to the National Academy of Design. The 
Ranney family settled in West Hoboken, New Jersey, 
and a second child — -James — was born in 1853. A fasci- 
nating account of the artist's studio appeared in Henry 
T. Tuckerman's well-known Book of the Artists (1867): 

[Ranney's studio] formed a startling contrast to 
most of the peaceful haunts of the same name, in 
the adjacent metropolis; it was so constructed as to 
receive animals; guns, pistols, and cutlasses hung 
on the walls; and these, with curious saddles and 
primitive riding gear, might lead a vistor to imagine 
he had entered a pioneer's cabin or border chieftain's 
hut: such an idea would, however, have been at 
once dispelled by a glance at the many sketches and 
studies which proclaimed that an artist, not a 
bushranger, had here found a home. 6 

Exhibiting his work regularly at National Academy 
of Design and American Art-Union exhibitions between 
the mid-i840s and mid-i850s, Ranney received favor- 
able comment in art journals and newspapers and was 
deemed a "truly promising young artist." 7 His art 
became popularly and widely known through his associa- 
tion with the American Art-Union (originally known as 
the Apollo Association), which existed from 1839 to 
1 85 1. The American Art-Union actively promoted and 
supported American art, especially "native subject mat- 
ter." 8 The members of the Art-Union, numbering 
almost 19,000 at one point, received Art-Union publica- 
tions and prints and the right to participate in the annual 
lottery of paintings. Three of Ranney's paintings were 
engraved for the members of the American Art-Union: 

Boone's First View of Kentucky (1849; fig. 2) and On 
the Wing (1850, private collection) in 1850, and Marion 
Crossing the Pedee (1850; fig. 3) in 1851. 

Ranney's career slowed after 1854 as he began 
to suffer from the consumption that took his life on 
18 November, 1857. Slightly more than a year after 
his death, the Ranney Fund sale and exhibition 
took place at the National Academy of Design. The 
Ranney Fund catalogue states: 

A number of the friends of the late WILLIAM 
RANNEY, being desirous of expressing in some 
way their sense of his abilities as an Artist, and 
his character as a man, decided upon offering a testi- 
monial to his memory, which at the same time, might 
be of some permanent value to his bereaved family. 9 

Although not a unique nineteenth-century event, 
the Ranney Fund sale and exhibition was, nevertheless, 
an unusual occurrence indicative of artists' respect for 
Ranney. The sale, held on 20 and 21 December 1858, 
yielded $7,000 through the dispersal of Ranney's works 
and those contributed by ninety-five other artists. As 
Francis Grubar observes, the list of artists is a "veritable 
Who's Who," and included Albert Bierstadt, Frederic 
E. Church, Asher B. Durand, John F. Kensett, and 
George Inness. 10 The art journal The Crayon, remarking 
on the event, declared that "a specimen of Ranney 
is indispensable wherever a collection of American Art 
exists." 11 

Despite the sale's success, the artist's reputation 
declined in the later nineteenth century and during 
the twentieth. Ranney's work was generally overlooked 
until the 1962 Corcoran Gallery of Art exhibition — 
"William Ranney: Painter of the Early West" — and 
Grubar's excellent catalogue reasserted the artist's 

The North Carolina Museum of Art's painting 
First News of the Battle of Lexington typifies Ranney's art, 
though it is larger than most of his other work. The 
theme of the picture relates to the battle of 19 April 
1775, the opening engagement of the American Rev- 
olution. Painted in a realistic but not overly detailed 
manner, the narrative composition combines elements of 
genre (scenes of ordinary people engaged in ordi- 
nary activities) and history painting. Ranney depicts a 
village scene in which numerous figures move and 
look toward a central group comprised of a standing man 
and three mounted ones. A surviving drawing 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Fig. 4 

William Tylee Ranney, "Study 
for First News of the Battle of Lexington", 
c. 1847. Pencil on paper, 4 14 x 5% in. 
Private collection. Photograph courtesy 
of Kennedy Galleries, New York. 

preparatory to the painting shows only one rider, wav- 
ing a rifle, with people gathered around him (fig. 4). 
In the painted composition, a rider with a drum, atop a 
white horse, points to the left as he twists to the right. 
A figure on horseback seen from the rear leans toward 
this first man, while the third rider raises a rifle (similar 
to the figure in the drawing) as though ready to lead 
a charge. The standing man — the village blacksmith — 
wears a leather apron and clenches his fists as he listens 
intently to the news. At the left, a younger man, 
clutching a gun, emerges from the smithy. A young 
African-American boy lugging a bucket of water turns 
in wonder to watch and hear the central group. 

The middle ground shows several armed people 
advancing toward the riders in response to the news of 
the battle. A woman's head pokes out of a second- 
story window of what appears to be an inn, while a man, 
farther back, pulls hard on a bell-rope to alert the whole 
village. The right side of the composition includes a 
well-worn wagon, beyond which appears a man on a 
rearing or jumping horse racing toward the center. 
Farther away a second rider approaches, while in the 
distance a church steeple and another village are barely 
visible. The sky features gray, somewhat stormy clouds. 
All of the figures' actions and lines of vision lead to 
the center of the composition and focus on the man with 
the drum who bears the news. The picture conveys 
directly and succinctly the announcement of the battle 
news and the reactions and excitement it triggers. 

Aside from its title, little in the picture actually 
tells us this scene occurs in the past. Except for some of 
the men wearing breeches, appropriate to the earlier 
time, the costume appears as much of the nineteenth 
century as of the eighteenth. High up on the end wall of 
the inn appears the date "1770." Despite the references 
to the past, the overall sense of the composition is one of 
immediacy and contemporaneity. In Ranney's hands, 
history becomes familiar, not distant. The moment 
depicted is represented realistically, not idealistically or 
heroically. The artist peoples his composition with small- 
scale, anonymous figures of a type one would not have 
been surprised to encounter in daily life in 1847. Like a 
number of his peers, Ranney renders a historical event 
as a genre scene. 

Genre painting and history painting share the 
fundamental trait of being narrative, with this story- 
telling element often being clearly didactic. However, 
where history painting elevates the unique and the 
momentous, genre painting shows the everyday, the 
commonplace. Certainly, the subject matter of First News 
of the Battle of Lexington is neither ordinary nor contem- 
porary, yet Ranney treats the historical theme with 
a genre touch. During the middle decades of the nine- 
teenth century, history painting and genre frequently 
merged, resulting in the hybrid forms of historical 
genre — ordinary folks in a historical setting — and 
genrefied history — historical figures presented in an 
everyday situation. First News of the Battle of Lexington 
exemplifies historical genre and is one of several 
Ranney pictures that interpret Revolutionary War 
episodes in a genre fashion. 


Ranney painted at least seven other images of the 
War of Independence: Battle of Cowpens (1845, private 
collection); Washington at the Battle of Princeton (1848, 
Princeton Art Museum, Princeton University); Veterans 
of 1776 Returning from the War (1848, Dallas Museum 
of Art); Marion Crossing the Pedec (1850, Amon Carter 
Museum); The Tory Escort (1857, private collection); 
Recruiting for the Continental Army (with Charles F. 
Blauvelt; c.1857-1 859, Munson-Williams-Procter 
Institute), and Revolutionary Soldier (n.d., unlocated). 
Except for the Princeton picture — begun by Henry 
Inman (1 801-1846) but finished by Ranney after Inman's 
death — these paintings, like the First News of the Battle 
of Lexington, present history as genre. In depicting inci- 
dents from the Revolutionary War and in making 
them more familiar than heroic, the artist reflected and 
expressed major interests of his era. 12 

Tremendously affected by the American Revolu- 
tion, Ranney's generation matured believing that "it is 
doubtful if any other event in the history of nations 
called forth so many heroic deeds, so many noble virtues, 
and so many sublime sentiments." 13 A passage from an 
1846 novel, Ellen Grafton, The Lily of Lexington, similarly 
expresses the pride of this generation: "[the Revolution 
was] that period of our history when every man was a 
hero, and every woman a patriot." 1 4 The passage hints at 
the pressure and frustration also felt by this "postheroic" 
generation; as the historian George Forgie has written 
recently: "Because the fathers had been heroes, their sons 
did not need to be and, indeed, could not be heroes."' 5 
In a sense, Ranney's contemporaries faced a double 
bind: they were expected to venerate the past and fulfill 
its high ideals, yet they knew they could never rival 
the accomplishments of their "holy fathers." One way 
the "post-heroic" era dealt with this dilemma was by 
familiarizing history: the past's lessons and significance 
remained intact, but were offered in a less elevated 
and more accessible fashion. For instance, H. Hastings 
Weld writes in his 1845 Life of George Washington: 

Washington on his farm at Mount Vernon, per- 
forming his duties as a virtuous and useful citizen, is 
not less worthy of contemplation than Washington 
leading his country to independence, and showing her 
how to enjoy it afterwards. The former example is 
indeed more extensively useful, because it comes 
home to the business and bosoms of ordinary men, 
and is within the reach of their imitation.' 6 

Weld's and other writers' efforts to familiarize history, 
and, hence, to make it more accessible, find a parallel in 
First News of the Battle of Lexington's realistic and non- 
heroic representation of anonymous figures. Two other 
reactions — contradictory in nature — to this burden of 
history felt by the "post-heroic" generation manifested 
themselves in the 1840s, the years when Ranney matured 
as an artist. 

One was the "Young America" movement which 
advocated progress and focused on the present and 
future, not the past. The second reaction continued the 
apotheosis of the Revolution, begun in the late eigh- 
teenth century. Of the two, the second proved more 
pervasive and longer-lived, and received constant hyper- 
bolic expression: the advancement of civilization, 
the foundation of civil and religious freedom, were the 
great and glorious objects of the American Revolution. 
The Chaldeans were swallowed up by the Persians, these 
in their turn were compelled to bow before their 
Macedonian conquerors, and these again were subjected 
to the imperial eagles and legions of Rome. Even Rome, 
the queen of the world, the mistress of the arts, was 
finally overrun and devastated by the Goths and Vandals. 
But where was the moral effect or influence in these 
great events, compared with that which wrought in 
every movement of our war for the freedom of mind? 17 

The coalescence of the progressive "Young America" 
movement and veneration of the American Revolution 
sometimes occurred, as evident in the preface to The 
Pictorial History of the American Revolution (1845), which 
states that it aims "to exhibit the kindly prospect of the 
FUTURE, more strongly than the irritating aspect of 
the PAST." Immediately following this a contradictory 
view: "The study of HISTORY can not be appreciated 
too highly; it tells to the YOUTH of our country a 
story full of wisdom, and replete with many a moral — it 
shows the influence and success of honor and virtue — 
that vice and dishonor go hand in hand together; and it 
excites them to noble deeds of patriotism, and calls 
upon them to do all, and suffer all, for their country. 18 

Ranney created First News of the Battle of Lexington, 
then, during a time which extolled the ideals of the 
American Revolution and the idea of American progress. 
The Revolution exemplified American heroism and 
virtue, while "Manifest Destiny" (a phrase coined in 
1 845) signified the aggressively expansionist spirit of 
progress. The two concerns commingle in a single event, 
the War with Mexico. The Mexican War was the 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 

Fig- 5 

Richard Caton Woodville (1825-1856), 
Old '76 and Young '48, 1849. Oil on 
canvas, 21 x 26V2 in. Walters Art 
Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland. 

largest American military operation since the Revolution. 
Although controversial, it nevertheless enjoyed popular 
support. For a generation who grew up on tales of the 
Revolution and knew it could never attain the heroism 
of that earlier era, the Mexican War provided the oppor- 
tunity for young men to "prove their worth." 

Analogies between the Mexican War and the 
War of Independence abounded, with Americans con- 
tinually linking the two events. Both wars depended 
on, and praised the virtues of, a volunteer army. The 
instant armed response portrayed in First News of the 
Battle of Lexington paralleled the droves of men who vol- 
unteered immediately when conflict with Mexico broke 
out in 1846. One Mexican War volunteer succinctly 
echoed the sentiments of many of his contemporaries: 
"I am very anxious to have a chance to try my spunk. I 
think I have the spirit of '76." 19 Paintings of the time 
directly connect the two conflicts; Richard Caton 
Woodville's Old '76 and Young '48 (fig. 5) offers an espe- 
cially fine example. Woodville shows the young officer 
discussing the Mexican affair with a Revolutionary 
War veteran. The room they occupy includes a portrait 
of a Revolutionary soldier and a bust of George 

The year following the Raleigh picture, Ranney 
completed Veterans of 1776 Returning from the War 
(fig. 6), a work that implicitly links the Revolutionary 
and Mexican wars. In this composition, ragamuffin 
soldiers in an old cart return home. The horse drawing 
the wagon takes the nearly identical pose as the horse 
ridden by the messenger in the North Carolina Museum 
painting. In depicting amateur returning soldiers 
from war, Veterans of 1776 offers a historical parallel to 
the homeward march of Mexican War volunteers, who 
Americans saw as latter-day Continental Army troops. 

Like Veterans of 1 776, First News of the Battle of 
Lexington presents a scene from the Revolutionary past 
which would have resonated with current events. Given 
the innumerable bonds made between the American 
Revolution and the Mexican War and the importance of 
volunteers in each conflict, First News of the Battle of 
Lexington undoubtedly spoke meaningfully to Americans 
in 1847 of the two wars. 

One aspect of life that must have struck contempo- 
raries as they viewed Ranney's painting was the change 
in communication systems since the Revolutionary era. 
As historian Richard D. Brown has recently pointed out, 
in 1775 the primary way information moved was by 
word-of-mouth and handwritten notes. 20 In the 1840s, 
newspapers disseminated information quickly and widely. 
Another painting by Woodville, War News from Mexico 

(fig. 7), demonstrates the centrality of the newspaper — 
the penny press — in the lives of Americans. Ranney's 
First News of the Battle of Lexington represents the eigh- 
teenth-century equivalent: the courier on horseback. 
Ranney's picture captures the immediacy and drama 
with which word of conflict traveled. 

Indeed, the speed with which the news of the 
1775 event reached people was legendary in Ranney's 
day. Brown states that "the pace at which news of 
the battle spread from town to town and colony to 
colony was unprecedented" in America and represented 
"a contagious diffusion" of knowledge. 21 This sense 
of the regenerating spread of information occurs in 
H. Hastings Weld's 1845 analogy: "Every messenger 
from the field of Lexington was another Cadmus, 
and armed men sprang up on all sides as they sowed their 
tidings." 22 Riders like the one Ranney depicts spread 
throughout the countryside. For example, Israel Bissel 
left Watertown (just west of Boston) at 10 o'clock 
on 19 April, the morning of the battle. By 23 April 

Fig. 6 

William Tylee Ranney, Veterans of 
1776 Returning from the War, 1848. Oil 
on canvas, 34% x 48% in. Dallas 
Museum of Art. The Art Museum 
League Fund, Special Contributors, 
and General Acquisitions Fund. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI. 1993 

Fig- 7 

Richard Caton Woodville, War News 
from Mexico, 1848. Oil on canvas, 27 x 25 
in. National Academy of Design, New 
York City. 

he had arrived in New York, having alerted Connecticut 
patriots. Through such riders and word-of-mouth, the 
news moved quickly, reaching Virginia on 30 April, 
North Carolina on 7 May, and South Carolina the next 
day, just three weeks after the event. Remarkably, the 
English received the American version of the battle 
twelve days before their General Gage's report arrived. 
With a courier on horseback and men coming forth 
bearing arms, Ranney's image reinforces the view of the 
swiftness with which the news traveled and the equal 
celerity with which the patriots responded. 2 ^ 

Ranney's First News of the Battle of Lexington is 
not the only painting from mid-century to treat the ini- 
tial outbreak of the Revolution, but it does appear to 
be the first to focus on the transmission of the news. 
Tompkins H. Matteson (18 13— 1844) painted two works 
showing domestic interiors with Americans readying 
themselves to fight. His Spirit of '76 (also known as The 
Holy Crusade) dates 1845, while a similar scene titled 
The Spirit that Won the War is from 1855 (both works are 

unlocated). Neither includes a courier, and in The 
Spirit that Won the War a figure incongruously reads what 
appears to be a newspaper account of the battle. An 
1845 engraving by F. O. C. Darley (1822— 1888) illustrat- 
ing a Godey's Lady's Book article titled "The Women 
of '76" includes several elements found in Ranney's 
slightly later composition. The engraving (fig. 8), called 

"Tidings from Lexington," shows a rider in the center 
of a group of villagers. The courier twists and points. A 
woman looks out of a window and an inn sign hangs 
from a tree. While displaying a more compact composi- 
tion than the painting does, the popular illustration 
nevertheless may have served Ranney as inspiration. 

Five years after Ranney's painting, Emanuel 
Leutze (18 16— 1868) rendered his version of First News 

from Lexington (1852, Lexington Historical Society). 
Here, as in the Raleigh painting, a pointing courier with 
a drum appears on horseback. Leutze, best known for 
his Washington Crossing the Delaware (185 1, Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, New York), creates a dynamic and 


melodramatic scene, with the rider galloping through 
a densely populated countryside crying out the news. 
Several images exist which link the news of the battle to 
Israel Putnam, who dropped his plough to join the 
fight. In 1855, Constantino Brumidi (1 805-1 880) fres- 
coed a wall in the Agriculture Committee Room 
in the United States Capitol with an image of The Calling 
of Putnam from the Plow to the Revolution. Alonzo 
Chappel (1 828-1 887) also rendered the same scene 
for the title page of John A. Spencer's History of 
the United States (1858), while another illustration (by 
C. White) of the subject appeared in J. T. Headley's 
The Illustrated Life of George Washington (1859). The 
Brumidi and Chappel images include a mounted figure, 
with drum, who points in the same direction as the 
messenger in the Ranney painting. Unlike these latter 
three works, which center the incident around 
Putnam, Ranney's picture features anonymous figures. 

First News of the Battle of Lexington was exhibited 
in the American Art-Union galleries in 1847. The Art- 
Union's Management Committee resolved to purchase 
the painting for $300. Ranney apparently had set the 
price at $350, but accepted the Art-Union offer. 2 4 
Part of the Art-Union distribution for 1847, the painting 
went to Maria (Mrs. John Stevens) Cogdell of 

Charleston, South Carolina. The Literary World published 
two unfavorable reviews of the picture while it hung 
at the American Art-Union galleries. The longer of the 
two reviews stated, in part: 

A more ambitious picture than Mr. Ranney has 
heretofore painted, but the increased size of his canvas 
will not increase his reputation. The whole thing is 
too sketchy and washy and comes from the easel in a 
very unfinished state. The figures, besides their 
want of body, are melo-dramatic, and not remarkably 
well-drawn. The horse leaping fence, at the left 
[sic] of the picture, must have a singular arrangement 
of bones in his forelegs to display such extraordinary 
action. The sky is like a wall, coming directly into 
the foreground figures. 25 

The picture is, in fact, sketchier and less detailed 
than Ranney's paintings of just two years later, when the 
painter had further developed and refined his artistic 
abilities. A more favorable account of the painting 
appeared in the Southern Patriot under the title "Splendid 
Painting." This review describes the painting in detail, 
indicating that the "dark and lurid cloud" over the scene 
symbolized the brewing political storm and throws 
the center figures into relief. 26 The article also offers the 
interpretation that "the fires of the blacksmith have 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 

gone out, for peace and its occupations are now to 
give way to war and its stirring events." 27 For Americans 
then engaged in the Mexican conflict, the painting's 
depiction of the earlier era's need "to give way to war 
and its stirring events" surely struck a familiar and 
patriotic chord. Picturing a historical scene charged with 
contemporary meaning for its audience, First News of 
the Battle of Lexington weaves the past into the present. 

Despite the mixed reviews the painting received, 
Ranney's composition exemplifies significant aspects of 
mid-nineteenth-century American art and society. 
These include the blurring of the categories of history 
painting and genre, and the rendering of a realistic, 
narrative picture. Additionally, the painting taps into a 
societal mind that continually sought parallels between 
the American Revolution and the Mexican War and 
that understood the minutemen to be the prototypes of 
the volunteer troops then serving. The work accom- 
plishes all this by presenting an image that is visually 
pleasing, easily understood as a story, and instructive 
and inspiring as a history lesson. By effectively combin- 
ing the modes of genre and history painting, William 
Ranney's First News of the Battle of Lexington makes 
American history accessible and reinforces the ongoing 
dialogue between past and present. 

Mark Thistlethwaite is professor of art, 
Texas Christian University. 

I 2 


Sold by the artist to the American Art-Union, New York, 
1847 (price $300.00); sold by lottery to Maria Gilchrist (Mrs. John 
Stevens) Cogdell, Charleston, S.C., 1847; [John P. Nicholson 
Gallery, New York, by 1947]; sold to the North Carolina Museum 
of Art, 1952. 

Select Exhibitions 

New York, American Art-Union, 1847, no. 149. 

Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art, "William 
Ranney, Painter of the Early West," 4 October-i 1 November 
1962, then traveling, no. 26. 

Select Bibliography 

"The Art-Union Pictures (Concluding Notice)." Tlie Literary 
World 2 (13 November 1847): 356-57. 

Catalogue of Paintings, Vol. 1: American Paintings to igoo. Raleigh: 
North Carolina Museum of Art, 1966: no. 46, illus. 


1. Francis S. Grubar, William Ranney: Painter of the Early West 
(Washington, D.C.: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1962), 29. 

2. Biographical information is taken from Grubar, 5-21, and 
revised from Mark Thistlethwaite, "William Ranney — Scenes 
of American Life and History," in William Tylce Ranney East 
of the Mississippi (Chadds Ford: Brandywine River Museum, 
1990). For another extended discussion of the artist and his work, 
see Linda Ayres, "William Ranney," in American Frontier Life (Fort 
Worth: Anion Carter Museum, 1987), 79-107. 

3. Some evidence suggests that Ranney may have been apprenticed 
to a blacksmith instead of a tinsmith; see Ayres, no. 2: 102. 

4. Ayres discusses Ranney in Texas and land grants he received 
there, nos. 2-3: 102-3. 

5. From the undated article "Splendid Painting," Southern Patriot 
[1847], n.p., found in the American Art-Union Newspaper 
Cuttings, New- York Historical Society. 

6. Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists (New York; James 
F. Carr, 1967), 431-32. 

7. "The Fine Arts," Tlie Literary World 1 (27 March 1847): 182. 

8. Mary Cowdrey Bartlett, American Academy of Fine Arts and 
American Art-Union 1 (New York: New- York Historical Society, 
1953), 166. 

9. Catalogue of Paintings to be Sold for the Benefit of the Ranney 
Fund (New York, 1858), n.p. 

10. Grubar, 12. 

11. "Sketchings — Exhibitions," The Crayon 5 (December 1858): 


12. Another version of Washington at the Battle of Princeton 
belongs to the Gilcrease Institute of American History and Art, 
Tulsa. The attribution to Ranney is, I believe, questionable. 

13. H., "Revolutionary Recollections," Tlte New-York Mirror, and 
Ladies' Literary Gazette 7 (23 January 1830): 227. 

14. Benjamin Barker, Ellen Grafton, the Lily of Lexington 
(Boston: Gleason's Publishing Hall, 1846), n.p. 

15. George B. Forgie, Patricide in the House Divided (New York: 
WW. Norton & Co., 1979), 68. 

16. [H. Hastings Weld], Tlie Life of George Washington 
(Philadelphia: Lindsay & Blakiston, 1845), 146. 

17. "Washington's Birthday," The New-York Mirror 19 (20 February 

1841): 63. 

18. Tlie Pictorial History of the American Revolution (New York: 
Robert Sears, 1845), n.p. [preface]. 

19. Robert W. Johannsen, To the Halls of the Montezumas: The 
Mexican War in the American Imagination (New York and Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1985), 57. Johanssen cites numerous 
examples of the bonding of the Revolution and the War with 

20. Richard D. Brown, Knowledge Is Power: The Diffusion of 
Information in Early America, 1700-1865 (New York and Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1989), 24. 

21. Brown, 246, 248. 

22. H. Hastings Weld, "The Women of '76," Godey's Lady's Book 30 
(March 1845): 98. 

23. Information about the dates of the news reaching specific areas 
is from Mark Mayo Boatner III, Encyclopedia of the American 
Revolution (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1966), 631 
and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., Tlie Almanac of American 
History (New York: Putman Publishing Group, 1983), 118. 

24. From the American Art-Union Committee Minutes (4 October 
1847) in the New-York Historical Society. 

25. "The Fine Arts — The Art-Union Pictures," Tlie Literary World 2 

(13 November 1847): 356. 

26. "Splendid Painting," n.p. 

27. "Splendid Painting," n.p. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 

Fig. i 

Louis Remy Mignot (1831-1870), 
Landscape in Ecuador, 1859. Oil on 
canvas, 24 x 39V2 in. (61.0 x 100.3 cm.), 
signed MIGNOT $9 at lower left. 
North Carolina Museum of Art. 
Purchased with funds from various 
donors, by exchange, 91.2. 


On the Road: 

Louis Remy Mignot's Landscape in Ecuador 

Katherine E. Manthorne 

We gaze upon a plateau in the high Andes of 
Ecuador (fig. i). A river cuts diagonally through the ground immedi- 
ately before us, flanked by a rocky outcropping at our right and a thick- 
et of palms, ferns, and vines to our left. Its waters flow almost imper- 
ceptibly in a gentle zig-zag toward the interior before leaving our sight 
beneath the rounded arch of an aqueduct bridge. From here the terrain 
ascends gently to the height of the plain and levels off for a considerable 
distance. Then it rises again into the chain of foothills and culminates in 
a great snow-capped peak. Once we have surveyed these features, our 
eye seems instinctively to return to the plain, the visual anchor among 
these heaving and undulating forms. And here, to the right of the cen- 
tral mountain, we spot a tower and the outlines of other buildings that 
suggest the presence of a town, an indication of human habitation in 
this mountain wilderness. Having located the major landmarks, our 
eyes retreat to the wooded area below the tall palms at the lower left, 
where the terrain slopes down to meet the edge of the picture plane. 

The picture was painted by Louis Remy Mignot (1831-1870) 
in 1859, tw° years after he returned from an expedition to the north- 
west corner of South America. His companion on that trip was 
Frederic E. Church, who had explored the region in 1853 and had 
begun to popularize the Andean subject. They spent four months 
together exploring Ecuador primarily, during which they encountered 
scenery that inspired major works for many years afterward. Mignot's 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI. 1993 


Fig. 2 

Eastman Johnson (1824-1906), 
Portrait of Louis Remy Mignot, 
c. 1851-1855. Oil on board, 20 3 /4 x 14'A 
in. Collection of Baron M. L. van 
Reigersberg Versluys. Photograph 
courtesy of Hirschl and Adler Galleries, 
New York. 

Landscape in Ecuador, recently acquired by the North 
Carolina Museum of Art, is an important example of this 
genre and one of only a handful of such works by 
Mignot in public collections. Examining this work, we 
discover that his melancholy landscapes, often peopled by 
lonely wanderers, are essays in a subjective art that 
depicts not only what he sees before him, but also what 
he sees within himself. 1 

A half-length portrait by his friend Eastman 
Johnson (fig. 2), painted between 1851 and 1855 dur- 
ing their student days in Holland, confronts us with 
a serious young man dressed in a dark suit jacket with 
a velvet collar and matching cravat. 2 His stance is 
not fully frontal, but at an angle, so that his right arm and 
shoulder occupy the left foreground and his left arm, 
held akimbo, recedes into the neutral background. To 
look out of the picture plane he must turn his head, 
with the result that he is seen emerging from the shad- 
ow. Light falls on the right side of his face, revealing 
his broad nose, darkly lidded eyes, and full lips. This 
stance connotes a guarded, wary public persona; but at 
the same time there is an appeal for connectedness in 
the gesture of his direct gaze, a desire for comprehen- 
sion of him and his art. 

No easel, no brushes, no palette are visible; in fact, 
we see none of the customary trappings of the artist. 
Mignot stands before us a well-dressed gentleman, proud 
in bearing and a trifle wistful in expression. In this 
he bears a certain resemblance to his great predecessor 
Washington Allston, another painter who was born and 
raised in South Carolina and studied in Europe. These 
two factors distinguished them from their contemporaries 
and contributed to their evocative, romantic sensibilities. 3 

In a career that spanned only fifteen years and 
unfolded across three continents, Mignot left a body of 
work broad in scope and impressive in quality. Looking 
back over one hundred years of artistic achievement in 
America, Samuel Benjamin wrote in 1879: 

Louis Mignot, of South Carolina, . . . appears to us 
to have been one of the most remarkable artists of our 
country. . . . [He] was at once a fine colorist and one 
of the most skilled of our early painters in the han- 
dling of materials; his was also a mind fired by a wide 
range of sympathies, and whether it was the superb 
splendor of the tropical scenery of the Rio Bamba, in 
South America, the sublime maddening rush of 
iris-circled water at Niagara, or the fairy-like grace, 
the exquisite and ethereal loveliness, of new-fallen 
snow, he was equally happy in rendering the varied 
aspects of nature. 4 

1 6 

Having received such encomiums in the nineteenth 
century, why is he so little recognized today? Certainly 
a variety of circumstances have conspired against his 
taking his rightful place in the history of American art. 
He was a Southerner in the North, an American expatri- 
ate in Great Britain, an artist who painted poetry 
when the public preferred prose: a man always a little out 
of step. But within the last decade several exhibitions 
and publications have brought Mignot's achievement to 
the attention of a wider audience, with the result that 
long-lost works have begun to resurface and a clearer 
idea of his artistic identity is emerging. With works such 
as Landscape in Ecuador finding homes in important and 
accessible public collections, Mignot is on his way to 
being recognized for what he was, one of the major tal- 
ents in nineteenth-century landscape art. 5 

Louis Remy Mignot was born in 1 83 1 to Remy 
and Theonie Mignot of Charleston. 6 His must have been 
a comfortable childhood, for the family had substantial 
property, including land, slaves, and "a considerable 
amount of money and in Stock and Trades." 7 In August 
of 1848 his father died, leaving his mother and several 
children; whatever plans the seventeen-year-old Louis 
may have had for pursuing his education must have been 
postponed. In January of 1850 the widow Mignot re- 
married, this time to Adolphusjohn Ruljes, a confec- 
tioner from New York. Their marriage settlement docu- 
ments the arrangements she made for joint custody of 
her investments and property as she began life with her 
new husband. Louis Mignot, now nineteen, may have 
viewed this change in domestic circumstances as the 
opportunity to pursue his artistic career. Some time in 
1 85 1, he left Charleston for the Netherlands, where he 
spent the next five years learning the art of painting. 
Although the details of his European trip are not com- 
pletely sorted out, it seems likely that he traveled first to 
New York City to make arrangements with Gabriel 
William Coit, a New York merchant who was his step- 
father's executive commissioner and who acted as 
Mignot's agent while he was in Holland. 8 

It is not clear exactly why he selected this Dutch city 
over more popular art centers. British critic and friend 
Tom Taylor explained that once the family resigned itself 
to his chosen profession, "young Mignot was despatched 
[sic] to the care of friends in Holland, where he was 
placed in the studio of Schelfhout for instruction. "9 
However the choice came about, it was a fortuitous one 
for Mignot, since he was able to study the Old Masters 
and contemporary Dutch Romantic painters. He 
benefited from instruction by Andreas Schelfhout, an 

important landscapist and popular teacher whose pupils 
included Johan Barthold Jongkind and Anton Mauve. 10 
Schelfhout encouraged them all to alternate studio work 
with study from nature, as Taylor confirmed: 

After acquiring from [Schelfhout] the rudiments of 
technical knowledge, he threw himself into it with all 
the ardour of an intense and enthusiastic character 
into the practice of landscape, and he returned to 
America after five years spent partly in studio work, 
but more out of doors in direct study from nature. 1 1 

In contrast to Rotterdam and Amsterdam, which were 
fast becoming urbanized centers of trade and industry, 
The Hague retained its semi-rural character well into the 
nineteenth century. We can imagine Mignot seeking 
solitude in the boldly horizontal landscape, surrounded 
by meadows or polders with picturesque waterways, 
woods, and dunes. In such desert places he was able to 
commune with nature, to find those phases most conge- 
nial to his own state of mind. Arriving in New York 
City with these experiences under his belt, Mignot was 
certainly one of the best trained painters in the Hudson 
River school. 

By 1855 Mignot was settling into the routine of 
the New York City artists. They generally went on 
sketching trips during the summer and retreated to their 
studios with the return of cold weather, to work up their 
studies into finished compositions. Mignot headed for 
upstate New York, finding subjects in Cooperstown and 
elsewhere in Otsego County; he visited Virginia and 
Maryland and sketched along the Susquehanna River. 

The distinctive character of the atmosphere, 
foliage, and topographical configurations challenged his 
artistic skills and forced him to seek the pictorial means 
of expressing their unique character. In particular, 
the warm, rich tones of the Northeast's autumn foliage 
allowed full reign to his abilities as a colorist. With 
each new product from his easel, Mignot earned the 
increasing praise of critics, who appreciated his 
diversity of skill and original sensibility. 

He was beginning to make a name for himself with 
an expanding repertoire of landscape subjects. But even 
contemporary observers recognized that the decisive 
moment in his career came in 1857, when he went on a 
four-month expedition to South America: 

The really distinctive quality of his genius appears to 
us to have been developed by his visit to South 
America in '58 [sic]., which gave rise to some of his 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI. 1993 


finest and most original productions, and seems 
to have had a permanent influence in defining and 
developing his style. 12 

The destination was Ecuador, in the northwest corner 
of South America, a country whose geological and 
botanical wonders had been brought to the attention of 
the world by the great German naturalist Alexander 
von Humboldt. Though named for the equator it strad- 
dles, Colorado-sized Ecuador contains most of the 
earth's climates — including polar cold — within its four- 
hundred-mile breadth and four-mile height. The 
chain of Andean peaks and volcanoes wall off low jungle 
and desert along the Pacific Ocean from steaming 
Amazon headwaters in the remote interior to the east. 
During their four-month trip, Mignot and Church 
observed much of this diverse terrain. 13 

The route from New York to Ecuador lay through 
Panama; travelers took a steamer to the Atlantic coast of 
Panama, crossed the isthmus by land, and caught 
another steamer at the Pacific terminus bound for South 
America. Mignot and Church sailed out of New York 
harbor in early May, and by the twenty-seventh Church 
was able to report to his friend Aaron Goodman 
their safe arrival at the Ecuadorian port of Guayaquil: 

We had a fine passage from N. York to Panama and 
we got there just in time to hit the English steamer, so 
that we were enabled to reach Guayaquil in just 14 
days. The Thermometer stands at 80 here and the cli- 
mate is very agreeable — Old Chimborazo, 150 miles 
distant looms up like a white cloud in the East and 
makes a noble landmark for our journey — 14 

Guayaquil is situated on the Guayas River, some sixty 
miles from its mouth, where at sea level can be found the 
hot, steamy climate, complete with palm trees and other 
lush vegetation, that is mistakenly associated with the 
entire continent of South America. Here Church and 
Mignot spent several days exploring the area and getting 
acclimated to the new environment. We can imagine 
that Mignot found Guayaquil congenial, with a climate 
and southern style architecture reminiscent of his native 
Charleston, making sketches for use in future paintings. 
On the twenty-ninth they proceeded to Quito, in the 
mountainous interior, going as far as they could by river 
before transferring to horseback and mules. "So you may 
imagine us," as Church wrote to Goodman, "trailing 
along with eight or nine mules in Indian file zig zagging 
up the mountains." '5 

Quito, the capital, is the oldest continuously inhab- 
ited city in the New World. They were there, however, 
to observe natural wonders, not the monuments of 
civilization, and after a short stay they moved on. The 
ultimate object of their quest was Sangay, the con- 
stantly active volcano that even the great Humboldt 
had been unable to observe close up. Their path lay 
through Riobamba, their base of operations in the cen- 
tral highlands. The chain of mountain peaks that 
lined their journey from Quito to Riobamba was among 
the most impressive on the continent and must have 
made a lasting impression on Mignot. The image con- 
jured up by Vassar College scientist James Orton a few 
years later provides some idea of the scenery they 

What an array of snow-clad peaks wall in the narrow 
Valley of Quito — Nature's Gothic spires to this her 
glorious temple! If ever there was a time when all 
these volcanoes were active in concert, this secluded 
vale must have witnessed the most splendid pyrotech- 
nics conceivable. Imagine fifty mountains as high as 
Etna, three of them with smoking craters, standing 
along the road between New York and Washington, 
and you will have some idea of the ride down this 
gigantic colonnade from Quito to Riobamba. 16 

Sangay is located in the eastern Cordillera, which 
today remains a remote mountain wilderness. To reach 
it they ascended to ten thousand feet above sea level 
by mule and then on foot, with a native guide who 
spoke only the Indian language of Quecha, into a territo- 
ry where few white men had ever traveled. Although 
a snowstorm prevented them from attaining the summit, 
the four-day outbound trek (the only portion of the 
trip chronicled in Church's diary) must have been one 
of the most extraordinary events of their lives. But they 
had to return home, and so they retraced their steps 
through Riobamba, Quito, Guayaquil, and Panama. The 
journey back is never the same as the one out, however, 
and they must have viewed afresh the unique quality 
of light, vegetation, and mountain forms, perhaps with a 
sense of urgency born of the realization that they might 
never again lay eyes on these places. 

Back in New York in September of 1857, Mignot 
would have begun to put his explorations into perspec- 
tive and to translate them into paint. He did submit two 
South American scenes to the last Artist's Reception of 
the season, which took place on 12 February 1 858. J 7 But 

Fig. 3 

Frederic Edwin Church (1826— 1900), 
Tamaca Palms, 1854. Oil on canvas, 
27% x 36V2 in. The Corcoran Gallery of 
Art, Washington, D.C. 

in the New York art world of his day, the National 
Academy of Design's annual spring exhibition, the clos- 
est American equivalent to the Paris Salon, was con- 
sidered the official forum in which the artist was to com- 
pete. As the cool reviews suggested, however, his 
interpretation of the Andean landscape had not fully 
crystallized. 18 

The year 1859 was extremely productive for him; 
he collaborated with Thomas Rossiter on Washington and 
Lafayette at Mount Vernon, 1784 (Metropolitan Museum of 
Art) and continued to work on a number of South 
American canvases. In the meantime, Church had begun 
work on his intended blockbuster Heart of the Andes 
(Metropolitan Museum of Art), as Mignot was undoubt- 
edly aware, since both artists occupied studios in 
the Tenth Street Studio Building recently completed by 
Richard Morris Hunt. r 9 Thus it is little wonder that 
Church's successful renderings of South American 
scenery were on Mignot's mind as he conceived future 

Landscape in Ecuador of 1859 is among the most 
Church-like of Mignot's imagery. It looks to earlier can- 
vases by Church such as his Tamaca Palms (1854; fig. 3) 
for its recasting of the Claudian template: in each case 
the centrally-placed snow-capped peak is framed by veg- 
etation left and right and a calm, limpid pool of water 
in the middle foreground. Each artist gives special promi- 
nence to the clump of palm trees, situated at the left, in 
which audiences especially delighted. Even here, where 

their bodies of work most closely converge, however, 
subtle differences distinguish their sensibilities. 
At this point in his career Church sharply delineated the 
vegetation, so that every needle on the palm font is 
individualized; Mignot, by contrast, has a more painterly 
touch with edges blurred and forms softened. Church's 
scene, furthermore, is illuminated by the clear light of 
midday, while Mignot's is suffused with the soft glow of 
the awakening dawn. Here, then, we can already 
detect signs of Mignot's dilemma. He has taken up the 
challenge of painting the same subject as Church, whose 
work carries its own authority; yet Mignot's personal 
predilections are visibly straining against the parameters 
of Church's vision. 

Landscape in Ecuador depicts the region of Riobamba, 
which had been their base of operations for the expe- 
dition to Sangay volcano. The town of Riobamba, the 
capital of the province of the same name, "lies in 
the bowl formed by the green slopes of Chimborazo, 
Tunguaragua and El Altar," Church noted in his diary, 
"and from any part of the town noble views of these 
lofty mountains may be seen." 20 This painting features 
in the central distance El Altar — the sister peak to the 
east— which presents a markedly different countenance. 
While Chimborazo rises into one mighty pinnacle, the 
summit of El Altar appears as a cluster of broken spires. 
Awed by the sight of this massive collapsed volcano and 
its crescent peaks, the Incas had called it "Capac-Urcu- 
Almighty Mountain." When the Spanish arrived they 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Fig- 4 

Louis Remy Mignot, Tropical Landscape, 
1859. Oil on canvas, 8 x 13 in. 
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Garett J. 

saw this same mountain as the titanic cathedral and 
named it El Altar, with the northern summit christened 
the Canon, the eastern the Tabernacle, and the 
southern the Bishop. 21 

El Altar and the surrounding terrain, then, is 
the ostensible subject of the picture. But we must also 
address the question of its subjectivity or meaning. 
Mignot did not paint, nor did he intend to paint, an 
exact transcription of a particular site in Ecuador. As 
the public of the time understood the image, it was 
rearranged, composed by him. It is not the reality of 
nature that is in question, nor Mignot's fidelity to that 
reality. Rather, for the Romantic artist the landscape 
without can only be the echo of the landscape within, 
a construct of the interior consciousness. 

These canvases were the product of the home 
studio. Occasionally a South American collector might 
commission a work, in which case the artist-traveler 
would oblige him by completing it before his departure. 
But generally he wanted to employ precious time 
abroad in observing and sketching the landscape. So 

we can imagine Mignot making oil sketches and pencil 
drawings on the spot, shorthand notations that would 
remind him of the look of a mountain peak at dawn, a 
picturesque view, or an unusual plant. These became the 
raw material from which he conceived his studio works. 
Memory, therefore, intervened; when the artist put 
brush to canvas, he was already substantially distanced 
from his subject by both time and space. We can some- 
times trace the conceptual process whereby the artist 
arrived at a final solution. Between the travel sketches 
and the finished painting there was often one, and 
perhaps several, compositional studies, in which the artist 
mapped out the structure of the picture, trying out par- 
ticular combinations before transfer to final canvas. The 
small-scale Tropical Landscape of 1859 (fig. 4) appears 
to be such a rehearsal of the arrangement of foreground 
elements in the North Carolina canvas: protruding palms 
at the water's edge, body of water nestled amidst the 
mountains, rocky crags to one side, richly detailed fore- 
ground vegetation and plateau beyond. When in 
Landscape in Ecuador these elements are rearranged around 
a central mountain, however, with the path at the left 


and its lone traveler, the pictured world looks remarkably 
different. Space has been organized into a new configu- 
ration, which offers a key to the picture's meaning. 

The small Tropical Landscape is essentially frontal, its 
forms oriented in linear steps parallel to the picture plane. 
Landscape in Ecuador, by contrast, was constructed as 
a concavity, framed at the sides and receding from us 
towards a centralized view of the distant peak — con- 
structed, that is, according to landscape convention laid 
down in the seventeenth century by Claude Lorrain. 
Followed literally, the Claudian formula establishes a 
strict axial symmetry that tends to restrict the eye's 
movement into depth. But in Mignot's canvas the flank- 
ing forms are not paired off along one line parallel to 
the picture plane. Instead, they are staggered in space, so 
that our gaze is directed from one side to the other and 
slowly back into depth, finally attaining its goal in the 
peak of the mountain. Not only our destination, but 
also our point of entry, is clearly defined. The threshold 
of the picture on the right side is entirely occupied by 
water and most of the left side by protruding branches 
and tangled brush into which no sensible traveler would 
step. Only at one point does a narrow path open up 
where our feet can gain a standpoint. 

The artist further coaxes us onto a path by his place- 
ment of a man, leading a pack mule, just ahead. Seen 
from the rear, the red-and-white-clad figure appears at 
the point on the path that rises into a slight incline, 
where he is just about to descend and disappear from 
sight. As he is the sole sign of humanity in view, we are 
not anxious to lose him and hasten to follow. But this 
man is already mounted and riding away; we missed the 
departure and must catch up. It is unclear how this 
occurred, but the signs all indicate that we are picking up 
the journey in the middle. The artist has stationed us 
not at the edge, but rather in the interior of a mountain- 
ous wilderness. The river flows past us; we see neither 
its source nor its termination. The rocks at the right are 
cut off, as is the copse of vegetation at the left, suggest- 
ing their extension beyond our view. This is also true of 
the chain of foothills that establish the horizontal axis 
of the scene, whose outlines indicate continuation past 
the limits of our vision. We have been plunged in 
niedias res and are left to determine for ourselves where 
we are in the unfolding of scenes and events. 

These small figures, dwarfed by their landscape set- 
tings, had once been dismissed as staffage, minor details 
added by the artist for local color; but they are now 
being recognized for what they are: integral elements 
in the pictorial program. Figures pausing by a shrine for 

prayer, engaged in commerce, transporting goods or 
as here — tracing a route into the landscape — must be 
incorporated into our reading of the picture. Our course 
into the landscape has been carefully charted, facilitating 
smooth passage. The scene is presented to us, in other 
words, as something to be traveled through. The difficulties 
of transport, which at times amounts to the seemingly 
facile task of locating a footpath, constitute a leitmotif of 
the written diaries and travel accounts, as a single 
passage from Church's Sangay diary attests: 

. . . about nine mounted our horses again and 
commenced our journey by crossing a river which 
was swelled by the recent rain and we had consider- 
able difficulty in getting the animals to cross — our 
path became more indistinct being nearly lost among 
the clumps of Paramo grass which was from two to 
four feet high and often so interwoven that the fore- 
most Indian — the leader frequently was compelled 
to reach forward over his horse and disentangle the 
grass with his hands. Our movements were necessarily 
very slow owing to the blindness of the path the 
terrible grass and the rarity of the air — we were now 
about 13,000 feet above the sea — and we were 
frequently obliged to dismount in order to assist the 
animal through some difficult passage. 22 

Mignot is deliberately constructing his picture in a 
manner that recreates for the viewer some semblance of 
the difficulties of passage. The motif of the road and 
traveler assumes even greater importance for his art with 
the recognition that Landscape in Ecuador is one segment 
of his pictorial recapitulation of the journey. It is possible 
to read Landscape in Ecuador as the endpoint of a sequence 
of works painted in 1859, including Street View in 
Guayaquil, and View of Riobandia, Ecuador, Looking North 
towards Mt. Chiuiborazo; together they recount his 
Ecuadorian explorations, moving from the bustling port 
city, to the sleepy town of Riobamba, to the solitude 
of the high Andes. Collectively they comprise a pictorial 
summary of the journey, the artist's successive passage 
from civilization to wilderness, deep in the heart of the 
South American continent. 2 ^ 

The trip begins with Street View in Guayaquil (fig. 5), 
the port city sixty miles above the mouth of the Guayas 
River and the artist's point of entry into South America. 
Here he depicted the typical colonnaded street populated 
with a variety of local types: the padre in a wide- 
brimmed hat, an Indian woman with a heavy parcel 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


strapped to her back, and other passers-by. Reviewers, 
however, responded negatively to the departure in 
subject matter: 

We miss this accomplished artist's works, scarcely 
recognizing in this passage from a South American 
town his method and treatment, although there is 
much skillful painting in the sky, textures of the old 
buildings, and manipulation which marks the master. 
The old walls and thatched roofs are inimitable 
for good honest painting; but the picture as a whole 
would be better with more care in the foreground, 
although with a greater elaboration it might not gain 
in force or effect. It is interesting as an example of 
the architecture of the tropical region. 2 4 

Their response was predictable, for in creating this work 
Mignot had faced a double challenge: this townscape 
was different from the sort of imagery that had won him 
a name with the public, and certainly went against 
its expectations of South American scenery, defined by 
Church's Humboldt-inspired mountain views. Yet he 

had attempted it, perhaps in part to assert his artistic 
independence with a subject outside Church's repertoire, 
but also to establish the endpoints of the expedition, 
from the centers of commerce and society to the distant 

From this bustling port the artist transports us to a 
sleepy highland town: View of Riobamba, Ecuador, Looking 
North toward Mt. Chimborazo (fig. 6) gives center stage 
to the massive snow-covered head of what Simon Bolivar 
called "the watchtower of the universe" looming over 
the town, occupying a good half of the skyline. Situating 
himself just above the grid-planned town and looking 
north toward the great peak of Chimborazo, Mignot 
presents a view of civilization firmly anchored within 
(and holding its own against) its natural surroundings. 

Finally we come to Landscape in Ecuador, where there 
are few signposts to civilization. We have moved from 
city to town, and now to the unsettled landscape close to 
the frontier. This painting presents the Ecuadorian land- 
scape as wilderness. 

In combination, this sequence reconstructs the 
movements of the artist-traveler in Latin America: he 
went by steamship to the selected port of entry, and then 


Fig- 5 

Louis Remy Mignot, Street View 
in Guayaquil, Ecuador, 1859. Oil on 
canvas, 24 x 35 in. Robert L. Stuart 
Collection, New York Public Library. 
On permanent loan to the New -York 
Historical Society. 

Fig. 6 

Louis Remy Mignot, View of Riobamba, 
Ecuador, Looking North towards Mt. 
Chimborazo, 1859. Oil on canvas, 
i7 3 /8 x 31 V* in. Private Collection. 
Photograph courtesy of Hirschl and 
Adler Galleries, New York. 

overland, moving toward the interior. In so doing he 
recapitulated the "descent" from civilization to wilder- 
ness. 2 5 This underscores the centripetal character of Latin 
American exploration, its relentless push toward the cen- 
ter, versus its East-West orientation in North America. 
Movement had direction on the North American conti- 
nent: when one sought adventure, asylum, or fortune, 
one headed West. By contrast, in South America there 
were no such defined vectors of motion. There was 
no West, no Frontier; there were only frontiers. One 
penetrated the interior, then turned around to retrace 
steps and began again at another position on the periph- 
ery. The concept of destination under these condi- 
tions had little meaning. It was the journey itself that 
became all important. 

And for Mignot, the southern Romantic, the 
quest into the heart of the continent became a metaphor 
for the examination of self. In the treatment of color 
and light we can find confirmation of some of these 
observations, for here he allowed his feelings full 
reign. In recognition of this fact, one critic noted of 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Fig. 8 

Louis Remy Mignot, Lagoon of the 
Guayaquil River, Ecuador, 1863. Oil on 
canvas, 24% x 38 in. Detroit Institute 
of Arts. Founders Society Purchase, 
Beatrice W. Rogers Bequest Fund, and 
contributions from Robert H. 
Tannahill and Al Borman. 

Mignot: "His Ecuador scenes resemble Turner's 
style, for in painting tropical nature he was brought into 
harmony with that great English master." 26 For both 
artists color and light were major expressive vehicles. 
Most of Mignot's South American scenes depict the 
landscape not in the clear light of midday, but rather 
at sunset or, as here, bathed in the light of early morning. 
In Landscape in Ecuador the solar disk is just above and 
outside of the picture, but nevertheless presides over the 
scene, filling it with a subtle golden haze. On the 
equator day passes into night rather abruptly, and there- 
fore sunrise and sunset are not the chromatic specta- 
cles they can be in the temperate zone. Choosing to 
depict this moment of the day, Mignot was not recon- 
structing an observed atmospheric condition, but rather 
constructing an emotional one: he was likely trying to 
convey sentiments similar to those William James record- 
ed in his diary on a trip to Brazil in 1865. Observing day- 
break on the Amazon, James expressed verbally what 
Mignot translated into paint: 

Whilst we were chatting the solemn sad dawn began 
to break and to show the woods standing, standing as 
if in a picture. Surely no such epithet as the "jocund 
morn" could ever have suggested itself to a dweller 
in these regions. The mysterious stirring of the fresh 
cool perfumed air, while the sky begins to lighten 
and redden and all the noises of the night cease as the 
day birds begin their singing and crying, all make 
those early hours the most beautiful of the whole 
day here. 27 

Beauty tinged with sadness — this seems to be the 
dominant motif of Landscape in Ecuador. A journey begun 
but not completed, a destination sighted but never 
achieved — these are the metaphors of self-exploration 
encoded into the landscape by the artist in the motif of 
the halted traveler and the melancholy light of early 

Perhaps encouraged by his growing reputation 
and sales, Mignot married Saidee Harris of Baltimore in 
January i860, and two years later — following the out- 
break of the Civil War — they departed the United States 
for Europe. They set up house in London, where the 
artist remained but for short trips to Switzerland and 
France. There he continued to paint landscapes for the 
next eight years, supplementing new subjects from the 
English countryside, France, and the Alps with South 
American scenes. Several works from the period just 
after the move to England might assist in our assessment 
of the role of light in Mignot's work. 

The canvas in the Bowdoin College Museum of 
Art collection (fig. 7), undated but probably a work of 
1862-63, provides insight. Here our eye is attracted 
immediately to the crumbling bell tower occupying the 
lower left corner. 28 Perched at the top, amidst a clearing 
in the vines that have overgrown it, is an orb surmount- 
ed by a crucifix. If this were the sole instance of such 
a motif, we might be tempted to dismiss it as incidental 
detail, but in fact other pictures by Mignot give special 
prominence to the symbols of Christianity. The padre 
appears prominently on the street in Guayaquil, the 
church and monastery appear in the foreground of the 
valley of Riobamba, and the cross reaches into the heav- 
ens in Evening in the Tropics. 29 What are we to make 
of these symbols? 

Our immediate response might be to draw parallels 
to similar motifs that appear in Frederic Church's work, 
and thus assume the same meaning. David Huntington 
aptly described the atmospheric effects of Church's 
mature South American pictures as achieving a distinc- 
tive unity of light and faith. 3° This light, which seems to 
emanate from the scene itself, has been interpreted 
as divine light: the symbol of God-in-nature that has 
figured so strongly in our interpretations of nineteenth- 
century landscape aesthetics. But here we should tread 
cautiously. In Church's case, there is sufficient infor- 
mation about his religious and philosophical background 
against which to interpret the paintings; with Mignot, 
by contrast, we still lack documentation of his religious 
convictions, or of his views concerning the impact of 
Catholicism in South America, leaving us to deduce his 
attitudes primarily from the paintings. 

And here the evidence suggests a view somewhat 
antithetical to that ascribed to Church. In Mignot's pic- 
tures crosses appear, not on proud and vital religious 
edifices, but upon a crumbling bell tower, cracked by 
earthquake tremors and choked with vines. Religious 
statues are oversized, looming over the penitent natives 
in a manner that suggests forceful domination rather 
than benign coexistence. Or the domed church and 
monastery of Riobamba seem to melt into the surround- 
ing landscape, raising questions about its very presence 
here, and its impact on the indigenous way of life. This 
alternate interpretation is supported by the pervading 
light, which conveys a slightly melancholy, wistful air 
connoting longing or loss. 

The canvas of 1863 now in Detroit (fig. 8) is a 
revision of the earlier Landscape in Ecuador.^ 1 Mountain 
form gives way to atmospheric effect, and the fore- 
ground vegetation is painted in strident greens rarely 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


equaled in landscape imagery of the day. Here he 
achieves a new mastery of aerial effects, with the sun 
seeming to glow through the mist in the upper register 
of the canvas. Working within the compositional 
format of a few years earlier, Mignot adds a new dimen- 
sion to his art, undoubtedly inspired by the art of 
J. M. W. Turner and others he was able to see in Britain, 
but perhaps also freed from the immediate comparison 
with Church. An expansiveness, a willingness to explore 
new subjects and compositional formats, is characteris- 
tic of a number of works of this period, creating in 
works such as Lagoon of the Guayaquil (fig. 9) some of his 
most personal statements on the tropical landscape. Now 
his subject is the flat, open expanse of the Ecuadorian 
lowlands; no mountains or crumbling ruins interrupt the 
vista. We face an open space which, save for an ascend- 
ing palm trunk, is filled only with the twilight and a 
crescent moon. And here again the light is not so much a 
function of the Ecuadorian sky, but a reference to the 
artist's state of mind, which finds its emblematic expres- 
sion in the empty space and the passing light of day. 

The departure of the two artists for South America 
coincided with the first flush of success for Church's 
Niagara (1857, Corcoran Gallery of Art), the picture that 
made him the most famous painter in America. 32 
Completed in the spring, Niagara was shown in April in 
New York to enthusiastic reviews as a prelude to its 
extensive exhibition tour. But rather than remaining at 
home to follow its progress and bask in the glory, 
Church chose to be off again, on a trip to Ecuador with 
Mignot. It is probably safe to assume (in the absence 
of evidence to the contrary) that the initiative came from 
Church; he had made a visit in 1853 to South America, 
which was already becoming — in the minds of the 
American public — "his territory." For his part, Church 
seems to have been planning a major Andean canvas as a 
worthy successor to Niagara, and for that he needed 
another and more concentrated look at the Ecuadorian 
scenery that was already beginning to fade in his 

Church owned Humboldt's inspirational books 
Personal Narrative of Travels to the Equinoctial Regions of 
America, during the years iygg and 1804 and Cosmos, 
and we can be sure Mignot was familiar with them as 
well.33 And certainly the popularity Church was enjoy- 
ing from the novel Andean subject matter would have 
been an incentive for young Mignot to seek out similar 
subject matter, as it was for Martin Johnson Heade, 

Norton Bush, and others. Even prior to his acquaintance 
with Church, however, Mignot may have dreamed 
of a visit to the Tropics. For while Church had followed 
Humboldt's journey vicariously, through the medium 
of books, Mignot had first-hand experience with the 
expeditionary material that had fired the imagination of 
the great Humboldt himself. 

It is inconceivable that, in his five years living at 
The Hague, Mignot did not visit its Royal Gallery of 
Pictures and Museum of Curiosities, which housed the 
collection of Count Maurits, Prince of Nassau-Siegen, 
who had led an important expedition to Brazil in the 
seventeenth century. Being exposed to such a collection 
of artifacts and specimens at this formative stage in his 
development, Mignot may have begun to acquire a taste 
for the exotic. Prince Maurits's legacy included land- 
scape paintings and Indian portraits by artists Frans Post 
and Albert Eckhout, who were part of his exploring 
party. Singled out by Humboldt as the "earliest attempts" 
to "reproduce the individual character of the torrid 
zone, as impressed upon the artist's mind by actual obser- 
vations," these pictures would very well have shaped 
Mignot's pictorial ambitions. 34 Nor should we overlook 
the fact that with close personal ties in Charleston 
and Baltimore, the artist must have had contact with any 
number of individuals involved in trade with South 
America, and perhaps recognized a potential market for 
related subjects. 

And, finally, Mignot's grounding in Romantic litera- 
ture and art predisposed him to search out the unusual 
and exotic in nature, just as Church's grounding in the 
natural sciences spurred his quest for volcanoes and 
other geological wonders. 3 5 Thus, their mutual interest 
in South America had certain common sources, which 
were colored by personal circumstances and predilec- 
tions. One thing, however, is certain: Mignot brought 
his own skills, approach, and enthusiasm to the venture, 
something upon which Church counted. Mignot was no 
lackey riding on Church's coattails, as is sometimes 
implied, but a colleague, a collaborator — and a man who 
demonstrated a remarkable self-confidence by taking 
up the challenge of painting side-by-side with the artist 
who was already renowned for his South American 
subjects. As one critic put it in 1857: "Mignot has fear- 
lessly entered on a race with Church." His closing words 
were prophetic: "It may yet be 'neck and neck.'"^ 6 

We shall probably never know the exact nature of the 
relationship between Church, the Connecticut Yankee, 
and Mignot, the southern gentleman. Although the 

precise circumstances of their meeting are not known, 
it would have been difficult to avoid one another in the 
closely-connected New York art world of the 1850s; 
they probably became acquainted in 1855, their names 
being linked in the press by early 1856. 37 Mignot was 
five years Church's junior and, at the time of their meet- 
ing, the new kid on the block; Church had one South 
American expedition behind him and was already the 
preeminent landscapist of his generation. But theirs hard- 
ly would have been the inequitable relationship these 
facts might suggest. From the moment of his arrival in 
New York City, Mignot was recognized as a formidable 
talent with European experience and training. Church 
was something of a snob, and associated almost exclu- 
sively with those he regarded as socially acceptable. He 
seems, on other occasions, to have enjoyed good rela- 
tions with Southerners — such as those he met on his trip 
to Virginia — and probably would have regarded 
Mignot as an aristocratic gentleman. In addition, Church 
owned at least two works by Mignot: Holland Winter 
Scene and Tropical River Landscape.^ The fact that they 

Fig. 9 

Louis Remy Mignot, Lagoon of the 
Guayaquil, c. 1857—63. Oil on canvas, 
17 x 25% in. Private Collection. 
Photograph courtesy of Richard York 
Gallery, New York. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI, 1993 


were seen in his collection long after Mignot departed 
the country emphasizes the value he placed on them and 
suggests the lessons he may have learned from them. 

While the inevitable friendly competition was fueled 
by the critics, influence undoubtedly passed both ways 
between them. In the brief diary entries and letters 
Church wrote in South America, he makes little mention 
of Mignot, referring to him at the time only as "my 
friend." And, unfortunately, to date no documentation 
has surfaced from Mignot's hand. But the visual evidence 
speaks for itself. Church provided, as we have seen, 
specific compositional prototypes for Mignot's early 
South American efforts, as indeed he did for many of 
his contemporaries. But it is evident that Church's 
handling of light and particularly color improved greatly 
after his second South American expedition; one has 
only to compare, for example, the Tamaca Palms (fig. 3, 
above) with Cayambe (1858, New- York Historical 
Society) to see a dramatic improvement in Church's 
palette. While this change is undoubtedly attributable to 
a number of sources, we should not underestimate 
the value Church gained from observing his young 
companion's sure handling of color. 

It is a measure of the status Mignot achieved a 
short time after his arrival in the northeast that his paint- 
ings were purchased by many of the leading collectors. 
In New York this included Marshall O. Roberts, Robert 
L. Stuart, Cyrus Butler, William H. Stewart, J. C. 
McGuire, George Templeton Strong, and William P. 
Wright. He also enjoyed support to the South and West: 
in Baltimore his works found purchasers in a Mr. 
Egerton and Dr. Aaron C. Harris, who later became 
his father-in-law, and in Chicago his work was repre- 
sented in the collection of Alexander White. A good 
deal remains to be learned about the relationships 
Mignot had with these collectors and the value they 
placed on his work, but we do know that the majority 
were upper-middle-class urban dwellers who made 
their fortunes as merchants and businessmen. In this 
Raleigh's Landscape in Ecuador is something of an anom- 
aly, for it was acquired by Rutherfurd Stuyvesant, a 
New York patrician. 

Rutherfurd Stuyvesant began life as Alan Stuyvesant 
Rutherfurd, the oldest child of Margaret Stuyvesant 
Chanler and Lewis Morris Rutherfurd. His great-uncle, 
Peter G. Stuyvesant, was a wealthy merchant, the 
direct descendant and namesake of the first governor of 
Nieuw Amsterdam. Having no children of his own, 

Peter proposed that if his nephew reversed the order 
of his name he would make him his sole heir. 
Rutherfurd thus became Stuyvesant and soon succeeded 
to his relative's fortune and social position; and on his 
paternal side, too, he acquired impressive credentials. His 
forefather Lewis Morris was one of the signers of the 
Declaration of Independence, and his father was a world- 
renowned pioneer astronomical photographer. 39 This 
position allowed him to live a life of leisure and privilege 
as a celebrated traveler, sportsman, and art collector. 4° 

Exactly when and where he acquired this picture 
remains undocumented. 4 1 We do know, however, that 
Stuyvesant was in possession of another work by Mignot 
entitled Passaic Falls (presently unlocated) by 1864, 
when he lent it to an exhibition held in Brooklyn for the 
benefit of the U.S. Sanitary Commission. No record 
of sale has emerged for this work either, but a landscape 
of the same title did appear in an auction Mignot held 
of his work on 2 June 1862, on the eve of his departure 
for Europe. 42 It is not difficult to imagine Stuyvesant 
attending the sale, where he could have purchased not 
only Passaic Falls but also a Landscape in Ecuador measur- 
ing 24 x 38 inches: that is, one that in subject and size 
matches the work in question. 4-3 What is not in doubt, 
however, is that Stuyvesant acquired it around this time; 
the name "Mrs. Stuyvesant" is penciled on the back 
of the frame along with the address "cor. 2d Ave & nth 
Street," the location of the Rutherfurd-Stuyvesant 
family home in these years. 

What was it about Mignot's work that appealed 
to Rutherfurd Stuyvesant? It seems likely that, whatever 
specific reference Landscape in Ecuador may have held 
for its owners, its dominant motif of the journey and its 
tinge of melancholy must have spoken to Stuyvesant 
on a profound, and perhaps subconscious, level. Being 
one of New York's moneyed elite, Stuyvesant obviously 
enjoyed enormous wealth and privilege, but it also 
means that he carried a certain burden of how to be or 
at least feel useful and productive in an increasingly 
professionalized American society. His status must have 
been something akin to that of the wealthy, idle 
Rowland Mallett in Henry James's early novel Roderick 
Hudson, whose solution — like Stuyvesant — was to 
make art patronage and travel his "occupation. "44 From 
the time of his graduation from Columbia College he 
roamed the globe, living for many years abroad in Paris 
and elsewhere; he neither severed his American ties nor 
felt completely at home anywhere. In that sense he 
shared something with Mignot. 


Mignot's expedition to Ecuador was one episode in a 
life of wandering. As a young man he left his native 
Charleston to pursue artistic studies at The Hague. In 
1855, his training complete, he returned to the United 
States and settled not in his familial surroundings, but 
in New York, where he won almost immediate accep- 
tance among artists and patrons. He married, and proba- 
bly hoped to begin a life of domestic security. But the 
Civil War intervened; his Confederate sympathies must 
have made it difficult to remain in the North, yet he no 
longer belonged in South Carolina. He fled to London, 
where many displaced Southerners moved during the 
war. Wanderlust returned; he went on painting expedi- 
tions to France and Switzerland, and planned a trip to 
India and the Himalayas. His wanderings came to an end 
in 1870, when at the age of thirty-nine he left Paris at the 
last moment before the Siege and made it to Brighton, 
where he contracted smallpox and died. 

Mignot's disengaged life as a wanderer, his feeling 
of rootlessness and alienation, impelled him on his travels 
with a tremendous sense of personal urgency. 45 The 
solitary traveler Mignot places on the road in Landscape 
in Ecuador functions on one level as a surrogate who 
plunges deeper into the South American wilderness in a 
metaphorical quest for self. The figure arrests us before 
a plateau in the high Andes, and we realize now that 
what we thought were only curious tropical plants and 
mountain forms on a pictorial sightseeing excursion 
are actually fragments of a far more personal journey. 

Katherine E. Manthorne is associate professor of art history. 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 


Rutherfurd B. Stuyvesant, New York, N.Y. and Allemuchy, 
N.J.; to Stuyvesant Estate, 1909; Veronica Rita Forgett, Teaneck, 
N.J., 1952/53; to Forgett Estate, 1989; sale, Bolton, Mass., 
Skinner's, 11 May 1990, lot 17A (as Tropical Panorama); 
[BrowirCorbin Fine Arts, Lincoln, Mass.]; sold to the North 
Carolina Museum of Art, 1991 


The author would like to acknowledge John Coffey, a long- 
standing Mignot supporter, for his invitation to write this article, 
and Col. Merl Moore, Jr., who generously shared his research on 
the artist. This article is the prelude to a major retrospective of 
Mignot's work; anyone with information about paintings or docu- 
ments is asked to write to John Coffey, Mignot Project, North 
Carolina Museum of Art, 21 10 Blue Ridge Road, Raleigh, NC, 

1. For background on American artists' interest in Latin America 
and Mignot's role in this phenomenon see Katherine Emma 
Manthorne, Tropical Renaissance: North American Artist Exploring 
Latin America, i8j9-i879 (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian 
Institution Press, 1989). 

2. The assigned date of 1851-55 coincides with the period of their 
stay at The Hague. Given its close similarity in format and tech- 
nique to Johnson's Portrait of Worthington Wltittredgc (Detroit 
Institute of Arts), which is dated 1854, it seems plausible that the 
likeness of Mignot was done about the same time. Mignot was 
portrayed by other artist-contemporaries including the Americans 
Richard M. Staigg, who exhibited his likeness (n.d., now in the 
collection of the National Academy of Design, New York) in 
1864 at the Royal Academy, London (cat. no. 709), and Samuel 
W. Rowse, who also exhibited his at the Royal Academy in 
1873 (cat. no. 1254). See Algernon Graves, The Royal Academy of 
Arts: A Complete Dictionary of Contributors and Ttieir Work from 

Its Foundation in i769 to i904 (London: Henry Graves and Co. 
Ltd. and George Bell and Sons, 1906), vol. 7: 228 and vol. 6: 
385 respectively. 

3. Allston's Self-Portrait (1805) is in the Museum of Fine Arts, 

4. [Samuel G. W. Benjamin], "Fifty Years of American Art. 1828- 
1878 I" in Harper's New Monthly Magazine 59 (July 1879): 256-57. 
An almost identical passage appears in his Art in America: A Critical 
and Historical Sketch (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1880), 83. 

5. This includes William H. Gerdts, Revealed Masters: Nineteenth 
Century American Art (New York: American Federation of Arts. 
1974); Barbara Novak and Annette Blaugrund, eds., Next to 
Nature: Landscape Paintings from the National Academy of Design 
(New York: National Academy of Design, 1980); American 
Paradise: The Hudson River School (New York: Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, 1987); and Manthorne. 

6. Mignot's early years in Charleston, South Carolina, have been 
described in confusing and conflicting terms; several sources have 
even stated that it is not possible to determine the identity of 

his parents. But documents I have had located in the state's 
archives, in conjunction with items from the Charleston newspa- 
per, now allow us to piece together this more reliable and 
concrete picture of his background and the events leading to 
his departure for Europe in 1 85 1. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


7. This revised version of Mignot's early biography is based on the 
following recendy uncovered documents in the South Carolina 
Department of Archives and History: Alphabetical Index includes 
the entries of R. Mignot, R. M. Mignot or Remy Mignot 
(assuming they are all the same person) for either sales of slaves or 

"judgment rolls" from March 1829 to May 1844; after 1844 no 
more entries under that name. Marriage Settlement, Recorded 21 
December 1849 Adolphus John Ruljes [?] and Theonie Mignot 
to Francis Dupont and Gabriel William Coit, Trustees. Obituary, 
R. Mignot, The Courier (Charleston) 16 August 1848, p. 31; copy 
kindly supplied to me by the Carolina Art Association. 

8. In a letter from Mignot to the American Art-Union, dated 

The Hague, 9 September 1852, Mignot mentioned his agent "Mr. 
Gabriel W. Coit of Coit New York," the same name which 
appears in the Charleston records as the executor of Ruljes, his 
new stepfather. See American Art-Union Papers, Box of Artist's 
Letters Unbound, New- York Historical Society. 

9. Tom Taylor, biographical sketch, in Catalogue of the Mignot 
Pictures with Sketch of the Artist's Life by Tom Taylor, Esq., and 
Opinions of the Press, Galleries, 25 Old Bond Street, London, 
and The Pavilion, Brighton, 1876: 1—2. 

10. The term "The Hague School" is generally used to refer to a 
group of artists working there in the 1870s, but in fact its history 
may be traced to the 1850s, when Andreas Schelfhout (1787- 
1870) was one of the leading members. For a comprehensive 
treatment of the subject see Ronald de Leeuw, John Sillevis, and 
Charles Dumas, eds., Tl\e Hague School: Dutch Masters of the 
Nineteenth Century (London: The Royal Academy of Arts, 1983). 

1 1. Tom Taylor, biographical sketch, p. 2. 

12. "Pictures by the Late L. R. Mignot," The Builder 34 (24 June 

1876): 607. 

13. Their itinerary in 1857, pieced together from Church's dated 
letters, journal entries, and drawings, was as follows: departed 
New York harbor in early May; 1 5 May left Panama Bay 

for Ecuador; 23 May at Guayaquil; 29 May on the Guayas River, 
proceeding to San Miguel (2 June) and Guaranda, in the vicinity 
of Mount Chimborazo. 3-1 4 June in Guaranda and Guanajo; 
1 5-17 June passed through Mocha and Machachi, sketching 
Chimborazo; 23 June (or before) to 2/3 July in Quito, from 
which they made excursions to the surrounding mountains; 
26-27 June at Pichinicha and Cayambe; 2/3— 9 July from Quito 
to Riobamba, where they spent two days preparing for their 
excursion to Sangay; 9-13 July outbound trip to Sangay volcano, 
which was carefully recorded by Church in a diary; 13-21 July 
return to Riobamba, then on to Guaranda. 23 July near Jorge; 
24 July on Rio Guayas, the last inscription to appear in Church's 
sketchbook. From there they must have gone by steamer 
to Panama, crossing the Isthmus to arrive at Aspinwall on the 
Atlantic coast. They left there 19 August; after several delays — 
including running a reef- — they arrived on 3 September 1857 
at Staten Island, where they were held in quarantine for several 
days before being let ashore. This account includes several 
amendments to the account given in Manthorne, 182. 

14. Church to Goodman, 27 May from Guayaquil, Collection of 
New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic 
Preservation, Olana State Historic Site, Taconic Region; gift 
of Mrs. David M. Hadlow. 

15. Ibid. 

16. James Orton, The Andes and the Amazon; or, Across the 
Continent of South America (New York: Harper & Bros., 1876), 
151. Orton had traveled there in 1869. 

17. "Sketchings: The Artists' Reception," The Crayon 5 (April 1858): 

114 mentions "Mignot furnished two South American scenes." 
No titles are provided. 

18. Of Mignot's entry the critic for The Crayon noted that "Mignot 
sends but one picture — Among the Cordilleras [presently 
unidentified] . This large picture is remarkable for its aim and for 
artistic power in some of its details; the sky is well composed and 
painted, also the prominent mountain of the group, and we enjoy 
in the picture a fine sense of light." See "Sketchings," The Crayon 
5 (June 1858): 175. His remarks are representative of the general 
concensus that the work held great promise but was not fully 
resolved. This would be entirely in keeping with the usual pattern 
among artists who encounter new stimuli and require time to 
absorb them. 

19. For background on artist-residents in the building see Annette 
Blaugrund, "The Tenth Street Studio Building: A Roster, 

1 857—1895," American Art Journal 14 (Spring 1982): 64-71. 

20. Frederic Church, Sangay diary, 1857; Olana State Historic Site, 
Hudson, New York. 

21. For a comparative photograph of El Altar see Loren Mclntyre, 
"Ecuador: Low and Lofty Land Astnde the Equator," National 

Geographic 133 (February 1968): 280-81. 

22. Frederic Church, Sangay diary, n July 1857; Olana State Historic 
Site, Hudson, New York. 

23. These are the three works from 1859 to surface to date; but as 
additional works continue to be located and identified, the range 
of his work will prove to be wider still. Mention of other paint- 
ings from this year include Sunset in the Tropics shown at the 
Boston Athenaeum in 1859 (cat. no. 291). The New-York Daily 
Tribune (7 November i860) reported: "At the Academy of Fine 
Arts in Philadelphia is a large picture of South American scenery 
by Mignot, which was painted in Baltimore last summer [1859], 
and is spoken of as one of the best of this artist's productions." 
And a View in Ecuador was included in an auction at Leeds, New 
York City, 17 March 1859. 

24. "National Academy of Design," Tlie Home Journal [New York] 

(1 1 June 1859): 2. The painting shown at the Academy was listed 
in the catalogue as Street View in Guayaquil in the collection of 
Sfhepherd]. Gandy. It remained in his collection until 1875, 
when it appeared in an auction sale of his collection. See "City 
Intelligence: The Somerville Gallery. The Gandy-Olyphant 
Collection," Vie Evening Post [New York] (20 March 1875) 4: 2. 

The painting illustrated here is another version of the same 
subject in the collection of Robert L. Stuart, who perhaps saw 
Gandy 's version in the National Academy of Design exhibition 
and commissioned a replica. Another instance of Mignot painting 
a near replica of a South American scene is the pair of works 
entitled South American Scene (1862, The Art Museum, Princeton 
University, New Jersey) and River Scene, Ecuador (c. 1862, 
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine), illus. 
Manthorne, 151—52. 

25. This theme is central to the nineteenth-century literature on 
Latin America as well; for a recent discussion see "The 
Conflict between Civilization and Barbarism," in Earl E. Fitz, 
Rediscovering the New World: InterAmerican Literature in a 
Comparative Context (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991), 
21 1-32. 


26. Tlte Anglo-American Times 23 June 1876, p. 16, quoted in 
Adventure and Inspiration: American Artists in Other Lands, with essay 
by Meredith Ward (New York: Hirschl and Adler Galleries, April- 
June 1988), 74. 

27. Brazilian Diary, 1866, in the William James Papers, Houghton 
Library Manuscript Division, Harvard University. 

28. It seems to correspond to a sight Church described in his journal 
of the Sangay trip: "About half a league from Riobamba [i. e., 

1 1/2 miles] we passed the village of San Luis, not very attractive 
with the exception perhaps of a picturesque bell tower attached 
to the church; the ancient tower built of stone was wrecked by an 
earthquake and on the ruins rise a rough picturesque framework 
[underscore Church's] covered with a thatched roof. Underneath 
are lashed the bells, the largest of which was nearly split in twain 
when it fell over with the tower." From Church, Sangay diary, 
7 July 1857. Although we might wonder at the significance of this 
tower, Church apparently assigned some importance to it, describ- 
ing it in far more detail than he did other sights along the road. 

29. The original painting remains unlocated and is known through 
an engraving, illustrated in Manthorne, 19. 

30. See David C. Huntington, "Church and Luminism: Light for 
America's Elect" in John Wilmerding, American Light: The 
Luminist Movement, i850-i875 (Washington, D. C: National 
Gallery of Art, 1980), 155-90, for his masterful analysis of this 
aspect of Church's work. 

31. For background on the Detroit painting see my entry in 
American Paradise: Tlie World of the Hudson River School (New York: 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987), 299—301. 

32. For the most recent summary of Niagara see Franklin Kelly, 
Frederic Edwin Church (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 
1989), pp. 50-54. 

33. Alexander von Humboldt, Cosmos: A Sketch of a Physical 
Description of the Universe (trans, by E. C. Otte, vols. 1-2, New 
York: Harpers, 1850; vols. 3-4, London: Bohn, 1851; vol. 5, 
London: Bohn, 1859); and Personal Narrative of Travels to the 
Equinoctial Regions of America, during the Years i799—i804 (trans, 
by Thomasina Ross, vols. 1-2, London: Bohn, 1852; vol. 3, 
London: Bohn, 1853). 

34. Humboldt, 2: 90. 

35. For a far more comprehensive discussion of this aspect of his 
background see Manthorne, chap. 6: "Louis Mignot and the 
Romance of the Tropics," 133-57. 

36. "Topics Astir: National Academy of Design," Hie Home Journal 2 

(13 June 1857): 3. 

37. For example, in February of 1856 a critic on a visit to the 
Art-Union building noted, "a young artist, Mignot, succeeds in 
happily combining Church's style with his own." See "Studios of 
American Artists," Tlie Home Journal 1 (9 February 1856): 1-3. 

38. Tuckerman lists a Holland Winter Scene in Church's collection 
(Book of the Artists, New York, 1867, 564). It is presently unlocat- 
ed. Tropical River Landscape is inscribed on verso, "To Fred, from 
L. R. Mignot, Riobamba, July 10, 1857." It is now in a private 
collection; for illustration, see Manthorne, p. 186, fig. 100. It is 
not certain just how these paintings left Church's estate. But James 
Ryan, director of the Olana State Historic Site, notes that in the 
years following Church's death family members were in the habit 
of giving away paintings and other belongings. Conversation with 
author, summer 1 99 1. 

39. On Lewis Morns Rutherfurd see Dictionary of American Biography 
(New York, 1950), 256-57. 

40. Stuyvesant gained a reputation as one of the foremost art 
amateurs in America. He served on the Board of Trustees of the 
Metropolitan Museum of Art from its founding in 1870 until 

his death. He traveled the world adding to his art collection and in 
later years became a connoisseur of armor, and was instrumental 
in the formation of the Metropolitan's arms and armor collection. 
But when he became a patron of Mignot, he was still a young 
man in his twenties. He had attended Columbia College in New 
York, and in the company of his father, cultivated relations 
with many of the city's leading artists. I found no comprehensive 
biography ot Stuyvesant; information was gleaned from the fol- 
lowing sources: Obituary, Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 
4 (1909): 1 16-17, 155, 194; and Calvin Tomkins, Merchants 
and Masterpieces: The Story of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New 
York: Holt, rev. ed., 1989). 

41. Although a large body of family papers is extant, it contains 
little information concerning art purchases; see Stuyvesant- 
Rutherfurd Family Papers, New- York Historical Society, 
Manuscript Division. To compound the problem, exhibition 
and sales records of the time often list works only by title, with 
no dimensions, date, or illustrations to assist in identification. 
These titles, furthermore, are frequently only descriptive tags, so 
that Among the Cordilleras, In the Cordilleras, S.A., Landscape in 
Ecuador, Sunrise in the Tropics, and View in Ecuador — all titles that 
appear in the records for 1859 and i860 — may refer to the same 
canvas. And, as has been previously noted, 1859 was a year of 
enormous artistic activity. It is not surprising that the debut and 
sale of a single South American canvas is difficult to pinpoint. 
Circumstantial evidence nevertheless suggests a possible scenario 
for Stuyvesant's purchase. In 1859 Mignot's South American 
canvases were shown in the annual exhibitions of the National 
Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 
the Washington Art Association, and the Boston Athenaeum. 
They appeared as well in commercial sales. For example, in March 
of that year a View in Ecuador went on exhibition at Leeds 
auction house. Stuyvesant conceivably could have acquired his 
canvas at any of these locations; without more specific identifying 
information, however, it would be impossible to link them with 
any certainty. 

42. Catalogue of a Choice Collection of Paintings, and Studies from 
Nature, Painted by Louis R. Mignot. . . . (New York: Henry 
H. Leeds & Co., 1862). 

43. Passaic Falls cat. no. 3; Brooklyn & Long Island Fair (22 February 
1864) owner R. Stuyvesant. Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of 
the Artists (New York: Putnams, 1867), 564, lists the painting in 
Stuyvesant's collection. We know, therefore, that by 1864 
Stuyvesant owned this (presently unlocated) New Jersey view. 
Falls of the Passaic, a painting of similar title, was included in the 
sale held 2 June 1862 (lot no. 14, 15 x 24 inches); it is possible 
that Stuyvesant purchased it at that time. 

44. Henry James, Roderick Hudson (first published 1875). Oxford: 
Oxford University Press, 1980. Although space does not permit 
elaboration here, the analogy is an extremely telling one. 

45. This idea is discussed at greater length in Manthorne, esp. chap. 6: 
"Louis Mignot and the Romance of the Tropics." 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 

Fig. I 

Winslow Homer (1836-1910), Weaning 
the Calf, 1875. Oil on canvas, 237s x 
38 in. (60.8 x 96.5 cm.), signed 
WINSLOW HOMER 1875 at lower left. 
North Carolina Museum of Art. 
Purchased with funds from the State 
of North Carolina, 52.9.16 


A Problem of Perspective: 

Winslow Homer, John H. Sherwood, 

and Weaning the Calf 

Linda J. Docherty 

On 17 and 18 December 1879, John H. 
Sherwood's collection of American and European paintings was sold at 
auction in New York. Included in this sale was a work entitled Weaning 
the Calf (fig. 1), which Winslow Homer had painted for Sherwood four 
years earlier. From the time the hammer went down in Chickering 
Hall until the picture was exhibited at the Whitney Museum of 
American Art's 1936 Homer centenary, Weaning the Calf disappeared 
from public view. Only after the North Carolina Museum of Art pur- 
chased it in 1952 did this pivotal image in the artist's career begin to 
receive both popular and scholarly scrutiny. Subsequent interpretations 
derived less from visual analysis of the work, however, than from long- 
standing beliefs about its creator. Over seventy-five years, an idea of 
Homer as a rugged individualist whose art was rooted in observation of 
natural phenomena more than interest in social issues had become 
firmly established in the American mind. 

Though initially subsumed by this tradition, 
Weaning the Calf offers compelling evidence against it. A close reading 
of the painting reveals that Homer was profoundly sensitive to unre- 
solved questions of race relations that continued to divide the United 
States during Reconstruction. By tracing the history of Weaning the 
Calf we can see, moreover, that this trenchant — and indeed pre- 
scient — image of America in the 1870s was conceived not in solitude, 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Fig. 2 

Winslow Homer, Haystacks and Children, 
1874. Oil on canvas, l5 3 /s x 22V2 in. 
Courtesy of Cooper-Hewitt, National 
Museum of Design, Smithsonian 
Institution/Art Resource, New York. 
Gift of Mrs. Charles Savage Homer, 
191 8-20-3. 

but under the auspices of interested patronage. The 
social significance of this complex work lies in its juxta- 
position of points of view. 1 

Weaning the Calf was Homer's first representation, 
in oil, of an encounter between African Americans and 
white Americans after the Civil War. 2 The action in 
the picture centers on a young freedman's effort to sepa- 
rate a balky calf from its mother, who is being restrained 
by a farmer in the right distance. Directly behind the 
ragged figure and in front of two large haystacks, two 
neatly dressed white boys stand and observe the contest. 
Their complacent postures contrast sharply with his 
struggling attitude, a contrast underscored by the shadow 
under which he labors. The white farm boys make no 
attempt to assist the black youth, but it is equally signifi- 
cant that he does not look to them for help. In fact, 
he does not look at them at all. 3 

Homer's renewed interest in African Americans, 
who had figured prominently in his Civil War images, 
coincides with a return to the Southern states where 
he had previously worked as a war correspondent. The 
precise dates of his visits are undocumented, but 


Fig- 3 

Winslow Homer, Young Farmer Boys, 
1873. Oil on canvas, I4 3 A x 21 'A in. 
Present whereabouts unknown. 

scholars generally agree that he made several trips to 
Virginia in 1875 and 1876, and possibly even earlier. 4 
Tensions ran high during these Reconstruction years, 
and William Howe Downes reports that the Yankee 
painter's interest in sketching black subjects drew him 
into conflict with local whites. 5 Although it is impossible 
to know whether Homer exaggerated the danger of 
his enterprise to his biographer, one thing is certain: after 
1875, his images of African Americans consistently 
foreground the freedmen's point of view. 6 

Though informed by the artist's experience in 
Virginia, Weaning the Calf is not a literal representation 
of the Reconstruction South. Rather it is a symbolic 
statement, derived from a conflation and reinterpretation 
of several earlier works. The setting is a New England 
farmyard, which Homer recorded, apparently from life, 
in an 1874 picture entitled Haystacks and Children (fig. 2). 
The most distinctive feature of this scene is a pair of 
monumental haystacks, before which two barefoot boys 
pull three others on a sledge. 

The white children in Weaning the Calf also originate 
in the rural idylls that dominated Homer's production in 
the early 1870s. The same two figures can be seen in 

Young Farmer Boys of 1873 (fig. 3)7 They stand on a sun- 
lit hillside here, knee deep in tall grasses; behind them 
several cows graze placidly on the horizon. 8 Such peace- 
ful images of country childhood appealed to Americans' 
memory of, and longing for, antebellum innocence. 

The black boy and calf whose contest forms the 
focal point of the Raleigh painting first appear in a pencil 
drawing (fig. 4). In this preliminary sketch, the youth 
uses a small tree in the center of the composition to 
anchor his rope hold on the recalcitrant animal. We see 
him in profile, leaning far back on a bent left leg. Arms 
outstretched and right foot firmly planted in front of 
him, he throws his weight against the calf s resistance. 

Based on this study, Homer created an oil painting 
now known as The Unruly Calf (fig. 5), which may be 
the Cattle Piece shown at the 1876 National Academy 
exhibition. 9 In this picture, he eliminated the central tree 
and shortened the rope length between boy and 
animal. The calf remains essentially unchanged, but the 
black youth has been turned three-quarters away 
from the viewer so that his face is no longer visible. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI. 1993 


Fig. 4 

Winslow Homer, "Study for 
The Unruly Calf," c. 1875. Pencil with 
Chinese white, 4V» x 8 "/<. in. The 
Brooklyn Museum. Museum Collection 
Fund, 24.241. 

He stands taller, with his feet closer together and his 
elbows against his body. Head down, the boy confronts 
the stubborn animal both physically and psychologically. 

We know nothing about the young African- 
American model for The Unruly Calf, who appears 
prominently in other Homer paintings of this period 
including Contraband, Taking a Sunflower to the Teacher, 
and The Busy Bee of 1875, and Watermelon Boys of 
1 876. 10 Mary Ann Calo suggests that Homer may have 
sketched him somewhere in the Northern states, but 
the images in which he figures reflect the artist's experi- 
ence in the Reconstruction South. 11 To a white audi- 
ence, the boy would have been a readily comprehensible 
symbol for the black race in the postbellum years, when 
whites regarded freedmen of all ages as children needing 
moral, intellectual, and political guidance. While he 
used the black child for symbolic purposes in the Raleigh 
picture, Homer himself critiqued this point of view. 

Weaning the Calf is an important painting, but it is 
also an anomalous one whose genesis bears close investi- 

gation. While it was typical for Homer to rework 
earlier compositions and progress from naturalistic to 
symbolic expression, his combination of images in 
this instance produced a radical change in content. 12 
Viewed separately, both Young Farmer Boys and The 
Unruly Calf appealed to postbellum nostalgia for rural life. 
By superpositioning one upon the other, however, the 
artist set up a provocative contrast between black activity 
and white passivity. By adding the mother cow and 
haystacks, he further transformed an ordinary incident 
into a rite of passage. Homer created, in his final varia- 
tion, a metaphor for American society. 

Only one contemporary notice of Weaning the 
Calf has come to light. A few days before the picture was 
exhibited at the Century Association in January 1876, the 
New York Evening Post commented, 

Winslow Homer is putting the finishing touches to 
a farmyard scene of a very spirited character. There is 
a negro boy in the foreground tugging at a cord, 


Fig- 5 

Winslow Homer, The Unruly Calf, 1875. 
Oil on canvas, 24% x 38V2 in. Private 

which is tied around the neck of an unruly calf, much 
to the amusement of two little boys who stand near; 
and in the distance is the old cow, held by the sturdy 
farmer, but struggling to rejoin her calf. There are 
haystacks, fowls, and other familiar objects shown on 
the landscape, the introduction of which will be 
appreciated by lovers of country life. The interest in 
the picture centers in the foreground group, the spirit 
of which we have rarely seen excelled. 1 3 

This description, albeit brief, reveals the contradictory 
perspectives in Homer's weaning drama. The black 
youth tugs at the cord while the mother cow struggles 
to rejoin her calf; as observers of the contest, the white 
boys are amused by his predicament. The writer, who 
shares their point of view, is attentive to, but personally 
detached from, the freedman's spirited action. By reading 
the image naturalistically, he (or perhaps she) failed 
to see its more serious implications. 

Until recently, the symbolic aspect of Weaning the 
Calf also eluded modern scholars. While the Raleigh 
picture remained in private hands until 1952, its closest 

prototype, The Unruly Calf, was owned by the Brooklyn 
Museum from 1912 until 1955. 14 As part of a public 
collection, this painting received revealing critical notice. 
In a 191 5 book entitled What Pictures to See in America, 
Lorinda Bryant described the scene as "a simple, usual 
occurrence in the life of a half-grown farmer boy." 
She continued, 

The atmosphere of the country is perfect; the disgust 
of the boy and the contrariness of the calf are simply 
bits of real life that make us forget everything but the 
outcome of the struggle between the two. Homer 
knew that especial episode well; perhaps he is the very 
boy who was sent to bring the calf home. The whiff 
of the country that such a picture brings is a veritable 
tonic to tired bodies and fagged brains. 1 5 

Bryant appears not to have noticed the black youth at 
first writing; in a later publication, she suggested that 
perhaps Homer "knew the very negro boy who was sent 
to bring the calf home." 16 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI, 1993 


The discovery was moot, however; for Bryant, the 
salutary effects of the painting derived from its "entire 
truth to nature." 

Such emphasis on rural idyll over racial struggle 
continued to characterize criticism of TJie Unruly Calf in 
the ensuing decades and ultimately skewed early inter- 
pretations of Weaning the Calf. In her 1980 article on the 
artist's return to Virginia during Reconstruction, Calo 
categorized both pictures as "rural genre . . . essentially 
lighthearted, innocent portrayals of country children 
with very little racial significance." Failing to differentiate 
the child as a symbol of innocence (white) from the 
child as a symbol of immaturity (black), Calo, like 
Bryant, interpreted Homer's images of black children as 
recollections of his own rural youth. In her eyes, the 
painter achieved "powerful characterizations" of African 
Americans only with adult subjects. l ~l 

Peter Wood and Karen Dalton have recently chal- 
lenged this traditional view of Homer's art. In the cata- 
logue essay for their exhibition "Winslow Homer's 
Images of Blacks: The Civil War and Reconstruction 
Years," they argue that Homer was an incisive observer 
of African-American character from the beginning of 
his career. For them, the Raleigh picture is less a narra- 
tive than a metaphor, in which the weaning of the calf 
represents the weaning of the black race from its slave 
past. Stressing the evolutionary relationship between The 
Unruly Calf and Weaning the Calf, Wood and Dalton note 
that the mother cow and white boys in the latter work 
underscore both the difficulty of the freedman's struggle 
and his desire for self-determination. 18 In the context of 
Reconstruction history, this interpretation of Weaning the 
Calf is persuasive, but not conclusive. We must still ask 
what prompted Homer to rework his original painting of 
boy and calf and what his conflation of black imagery 
and white imagery revealed about the United States after 

The answers seem to he, in part, with the original 
owner of Weaning the Calf John H. Sherwood, 
who formed a noteworthy collection of American and 
European paintings in the 1870s. This New York 
entrepreneur was born in 18 16, in upstate Chenango 
County. At the age of twenty, he moved to Michigan, 
where he established himself in the hide and leather 
business. By 1852, Sherwood was in New York City, 
trading at first and subsequently making his fortune 
in real estate development. In 1879, the New York Times 
described him as a man who "dabbles in many depart- 
ments of business, being at once a banker, a builder, 

a craftsman, an artist, and a collector of pictures and 
curiosities. " J 9 Sherwood's obituary notes that he was one 
of the first to recognize the commercial, as well as resi- 
dential, potential of Fifth Avenue. He built over a 
hundred houses in the city, served on the boards of 
banks and insurance companies, and was active in club 
life. When Sherwood died in 1887, he left a sizable 
inheritance of property, stocks, and cash to family mem- 
bers and to the Zion Protestant Episcopal Church in 
Greene, Chenango County, where he was buried.- 

As a businessman, Sherwood identified with a class 
of "prudent and cautious capitalist^]" for whom real 
estate had traditionally been "the safest and most stable 
property to leave to one's heirs." 21 He received frequent 
notice in the New York Times as an advocate for city 
property owners, who found their investments threat- 
ened by exorbitant taxes and assessments. In numerous 
letters, the entrepreneur railed against corrupt govern- 
ment officials whose qualifications for office were, in his 
words, "gained in rumholes, gambling saloons, and 
the lowest slums of the City, who do not own a foot of 
land, and who have but one object in view and that is 
plunder." 22 At the end of his life, Sherwood embarked 
on a vigorous crusade against the Amalgamated Gas 
Companies of New York, a monopoly gained through 
special privilege. His protestations are sometimes witty — 
"I believe the time has come when these people can 
be extinguished and their gas turned off' 2 3 — and always 
militant in tone. By fighting to protect his private inter- 
ests in this case, Sherwood viewed himself as a defender 
of the public at large. 

The combination of conservatism and activism that 
characterized Sherwood's business dealings also informed 
his patronage of the visual arts. His taste in European 
painting tended toward the work of popular academic 
masters (William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Alexandre 
Cabanel, and Jean-Leon Gerome); among American 
artists he favored landscapists (Sanford R. Gifford, 
William Trost Richards, and Worthington Whittredge) 
and genre painters (J. G. Brown, Seymour Joseph 
Guy, and Winslow Homer). In 1879, Sherwood 
designed and laid the foundations for a new artists' studio 
building on the southeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 
57th Street. He envisioned this structure — which includ- 
ed a large hall tor exhibitions and entertainments — as a 
place where native talents, who regularly received less for 
their pictures, could "live comfortably, even elegantly, 
in quarters suited to their professional and personal 
requirements. " 2 -<- While attempting to lift American 


Fig. 6 

Winslow Homer, Army Teamsters, 
1866. Oil on canvas, 17V2 x 28% in. 
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul 
Mellon, Upperville, Virginia. 
Photograph by Joseph Szaszfai. 

Fig- 7 

Winslow Homer, The Bright Side, 1865. 
Oil on canvas, 13Y4 x l7'/2 in. The Fine 
Arts Museums of San Francisco. Gift of 
Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd, 
1979- 7-56. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Fig. 8 

Winslow Homer, The Country School, 
1871. Oil on canvas, 2i 3 /b x 38 3 /s in. The 
Saint Louis Art Museum. Museum 

Fig. 9 

Winslow Homer, New England Country 
School, 1873. Oil on canvas, 11% x 
17% in. Gift of anonymous donor, 
1928.56. ©Addison Gallery of American 
Art, Phillips Academy, Andover, 
Massachusetts. All Rights Reserved. 


painters out of a Bohemian existence, Sherwood also 
strove to increase public awareness and appreciation of 
art. The gallery of his home at Fifth Avenue and 44th 
Street was always open to interested viewers, and he reg- 
ularly contributed pictures to loan exhibitions outside 
New York City. 2 ^ 

Sherwood's collection was twice offered for sale 
at auction in the 1870s. The first sale, on 29 and 30 
April 1873, featured 122 works, a group the New York 
Times called "small, but very interesting and valuable." 
According to the same review, Sherwood's decision 
to sell his paintings was due to his contemplated resi- 
dence in Europe for an extended period of time. 26 The 
second sale took place on 17 and 18 December 1879; 
on this occasion, the Sherwood collection was auctioned 
with that of another New York resident, Benjamin 
Hart, whose holdings were exclusively European. The 
Times described both men as "gentlemen of wealth 
and disposition to liberally patronize the fine arts." It 
ascribed Sherwood's liquidation of his gallery to the dis- 
covery that "his house is not constructed to properly 
accommodate and preserve the valuable works that he 
has owned." 27 After the 1879 auction, the Times makes 
no more mention of Sherwood as a collector. His 
involvement with artists seems to have become limited 
to the studio building, which he still owned at the 
time of his death. 

Auction catalogues for both the 1873 and the 1879 
Sherwood sales stress the owner's active role in commis- 
sioning paintings from individual artists. The latter notes, 

Mr. Sherwood's collection has been made familiar 
in many generous ways, and he has been long and 
favorably known for his efforts on behalf of art, and 
for his liberal patronage of our home school. Nearly 
all of his pictures, by American, English, and Scotch 
artists were painted expressly to his order, and 
many are the master-pieces of their authors. 28 

Although Sherwood appears to have temporarily moved 
his residence out of New York, his patronage of the 
arts did not cease after i873. 2 9 The second sale of his 
collection included works by twenty-one American 
painters not represented in the first. 

Sherwood owned four pictures by Winslow 
Homer, which were, and continue to be, among the 
artist's best-known early images. Three of the four, 
Army Teamsters (fig. 6), Hie Country School (fig. 8), and 
Snap the Whip (fig. 10), are listed in the 1873 sale cata- 

logue. - ,0 Army Teamsters appears to have sold at this 
time, most probably to Lawson Valentine, whose associa- 
tion with and patronage of Homer is documented from 
the early 1870s. 31 The Country Sclwol and Snap the Whip 
remained in Sherwood's possession; he loaned the former 
to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition and both works 
to the 1878 Exposition Universelle in Paris. In 1879, 
Sherwood again put Tiie Country School and Snap the 
Wliip up for auction along with a new painting by 
Homer acquired in the interval, Weaning the Calf. On 
this occasion, all three works found buyers. 

Each of the Homer paintings owned by Sherwood 
exists in another version. Army Teamsters, The Country 
School, Snap the Whip, and Weaning the Calf have their 
respective analogues in The Bright Side (fig. 7), A New 
England Country School (fig. 9), Snap the Whip (fig. 11), 
and The Unruly Calf J 2 This duplication of imagery sug- 
gests that Sherwood did not commission specific subjects 
from Homer, but rather ordered variations on previous 
inventions. Such patronage provided the artist a unique 
opportunity to develop his original concepts. 

Sherwood's first three purchases are all physically 
larger than their counterparts. Without altering the 
essential character of the image, Homer adjusted his van- 
tage point and filled the expanded format with addi- 
tional figures and/ or details of setting. In Army Teamsters, 
he stepped back from the central group and painted an 
extra wagon and reclining mule on the left, a second tent 
and the entire barrel on the right. 33 In The Country 
School, the painter shifted his viewpoint toward the left 
to include a window and another boy; on the right, 
he omitted the window and added four children. Other 
noteworthy additions are the teacher's hat above the 
blackboard and the schoolbell on her desk. 34 In Snap the 
Wliip, Homer moved in closer to the boys and inserted 
another falling figure at the end of the chain. Also on the 
left, he added adults and children and replaced a church 
with a farmhouse. The most notable change in this case 
is one of setting; in the later painting, the schoolyard is 
nestled against a mountainous backdrop. 35 Although 
Homer was repeatedly criticized for lack of finish in this 
period, his execution too was more detailed on the larger 
canvases. In treatment as well as subject, then, the paint- 
ings owned by Sherwood in 1873 were elaborations 
of other works. 

Weaning the Calf by contrast, differs significantly 
from its prototype. For this last purchase, Homer deviat- 
ed from his usual practice of reworking an image for 
Sherwood by making two pictures of approximately the 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI. 1993 


Fig. io 

Winslow Homer, Snap the Wltip, 1872. 
Oil on canvas, 22 x 36 in. The Butler 
Institute of American Art, 
Youngstown, Ohio. 

same size. Instead of expanding the original composition, 
he detached the central group, reduced its scale, and 
placed it in a different context. The result was not only a 
more polished version of The Unruly Calf, but also a 
reinterpretation of it. 3 6 

While it is impossible to imagine Homer working 
"expressly to order" in any detailed way, his conflation 
of images in this picture may be traceable to his 
patron. Sherwood may, quite plausibly, have asked for 
a variation of The Unruly Calf to complement the 
Homer paintings of white children already in his collec- 
tion. Such a request and such a response to it would 
signify an evolving relationship between collector and 
artist — and a growing sophistication on the part of 
each. If Sherwood had begun to desire alteration rather 
than elaboration, Homer responded, in Weaning the Calf, 
with an image of new complexity and profundity. 

To understand how Sherwood may have contributed 
to the development of Homer's artistic vision, we 
must consider the paintings he owned not only in rela- 
tionship to their prototypes, but also to each other. 
Although Army Teamsters is distinct as a Civil War sub- 
ject, the three works from the 1870s become more 
meaningful when seen together. The Country School and 
Snap the Wliip clearly represent twin aspects of educa- 
tional experience in the common school era. While the 
former focuses on instruction (the teacher listens to a 
recitation), the latter highlights recreation (the boys join 
hands in a schoolyard game). These two pictures show 
work and play, mind and body, culture and nature com- 
plementing and balancing one another in America's 
children. Their similar size and the fact that he lent both 
works to the 1 878 World's Fair suggest that Sherwood 
himself viewed them as a pair. 

Weaning the Calf the last painting Homer did 
for Sherwood, supports this concept of a patron with 
an appreciation for pictorial relationships. Although 


Fig. ii 

Winslow Homer, Snap the Whip, 1872. 
Oil on canvas, 12 x 20 in. The 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New 
York. Gift of Christian A. Zabriskie, 
1950 (50.41). 

slightly larger in size, it seems expressly designed for 
his collection as both an analogue and a counterpoint to 
Snap the Wliip. In each of these images, Homer deals 
with rural boyhood, with the relationship between past 
and present, and with the process of passage to maturity. 
Together they reveal the stark contrast between white 
America and black America in the Reconstruction years. 

Snap the Whip is an icon of exuberant youth. The 
dynamic line of boys appears before our eyes in a fleeting 
moment, preserved for all time by Homer's quick eye 
and capable brush. Their world of play is gloriously sun- 
lit, and their unshod feet on the lush grass signify free- 
dom from duty and care. For white viewers in the post- 
Civil War era, children not only symbolized nostalgia 
for the past; close to God and close to nature, they also 
represented hope for the future, for a Union truly 
born again. 37 

While white Americans of this period viewed 
play as the special privilege of children, Weaning the 
Calf is clearly a painting about work. As a represen- 

tative of his race, however, the young African American 
who struggles with the calf here also embodies a promise 
of rebirth. Homer's positioning of the white spectators 
underscores the desire of freedmen to break not only 
from their slave past, but also from dependence on their 
former masters. From the black perspective, emancipa- 
tion implied freedom to assume responsibility rather 
than to avoid it. 

Weaning the Calf is, in composition, almost a mirror 
image of Snap the Wliip. In both pictures, a strong hori- 
zontal line dominates the foreground space, and, in both, 
tension on this line creates a sense of drama. While the 
figures in Snap the Wliip form a tightly linked human 
chain, the boy and animal in Weaning the Calf are joined 
by a fragile rope. They lean heavily against each other, 
yet they are also bound together; if the rope snaps, both 
will fall and the entire structure will collapse. In Snap the 
Wliip, by contrast, the purpose of the game is to break 
the chain. The children enjoy a more dynamic, yet 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI. 1993 


ultimately more stable union, in which weak links can 
easily be reforged. 

Snap the Whip symbolizes the relationship between 
past and present in white America. The boys who 
fly through the air when the whip cracks fall toward the 
protective presence of adults, who wave at the group 
from the left distance. It has been observed that the 
schoolyard on which the children play contains stones 
as well as grass and flowers, and that their youthful game, 
like all games, may be interpreted as a preparation for 
adulthood. 3 8 More striking than the threat of danger in 
this painting, however, is the sense of continuity it 
suggests between generations in the white community. 
If we read from right to left, the little boys tumble 
in the direction of mom and dad; if we read from left to 
right, the bigger boys seem to be pulling their parents 
their way. In Snap the Whip, young and old face each 
other, both desirous and capable of bridging the gaps 
that separate them. 

Weaning the Calf, too, addresses the relationship 
between past and present in the Reconstruction years. 
Here, however, parent and child (cow and calf) 
appear with their backs to one another, suggesting the 
discontinuity in African-American life that was the 
price of emancipation. Children born after 1865 could 
not know slavery; while they had their own fears, the 
auction block and whipping post were not among them. 
In this picture, the mooing of the cow and the resistance 
of her offspring reveal the psychological pain of a race 
emerging from bondage. The youth pulls the calf away 
from its mother and toward a future that is veiled in 
shadow. Compared to the sunlit playground of Snap the 
Whip, the lowering foreground of Weaning the Calf sug- 
gests the uncertainties under which African Americans 
labored to realize their freedom. 

For white children in postbellum America, public 
education provided the instruction — both academic and 
moral — needed to live as independent and responsible 
citizens. As conceived by Massachusetts educator Horace 
Mann, the common school was designed to liberate 
and, more important, to socialize individuals in an 
increasingly heterogeneous nation. 39 While the line of 
barefoot boys in Snap the Wliip clearly embodies freedom 
from the confinement of the schoolhouse, it simultane- 
ously wraps around the building in a kind of embrace. In 
asserting their youthful right to play, these children 
protect the established social order for future inheritance. 

Although there are no explicit references to 
education in Weaning the Calf, the haystacks in the back- 
ground are compositionally analogous to the school- 

house in Snap the Whip. Education weans children 
from dependence on parental care, and in a parallel way, 
these haystacks rise from the earth like two great breasts 
to offer the calf a substitute for its mother's milk. But 
by what means will the young animal, and by association 
the young African American, receive the nourishment 
they need to survive in adult life? The presence of 
white figures between the calf and the fodder and the 
rhyming of the two boys and two haystacks suggests 
that, for a time at least, whites will continue to be 
providers, or at least mediators. The precise relationship 
of the children is unclear, but the fact that the white 
boys are wearing shoes suggests that they represent white 
civilization. Equally significant, however, is the fact 
that the barefoot black youth is pulling the calf (and him- 
self) away from both the cow and the white observers. 
For him, passage to maturity demands rejection, not pro- 
tection, of existing social structures. 

While Snap the Wliip captures a fleeting moment 
in a familiar sequence of action, Weaning the Calf depicts 
a static scene, of which the outcome is open to question. 
Its frozen quality derives in part from the incident repre- 
sented, but more importantly, from a tension between 
alternative points of view. Neither black nor white 
figures provide a clear focal point for this picture. While 
the black youth is foregrounded, larger, and more active, 
the white boys are highlighted, frontal, and in a pair. 
The two races compete, in effect, for visual attention. 

Published interpretations of Weaning the Calf 
testify to this ambiguity. The contemporary Evening 
Post reviewer saw Homer's weaning drama through the 
eyes of Northern white spectators and took compla- 
cent delight in the negro's spirited action. More recently, 
Wood and Dalton have focused on the young African 
American and the symbolic character of his struggle. 
I would argue that Weaning the Calf admits both readings 
and that this duality should not be attributed to artistic 
uncertainty. On the contrary, Homer's simultaneous rep- 
resentation of black and white perspectives reveals 
both his and his patron Sherwood's understanding of 

Sherwood's attitude toward the freedman can be 
inferred from his membership in the Union League 
Club, an elite Republican organization formed in 1 863 
to rekindle Northern support for the Civil War.4° 
The Manhattan branch consisted primarily of leaders of 
commerce and industry, including self-made magnates 
such as Sherwood, who described himself as a 
"Republican by conviction. "4 1 Although professional 


politicians were excluded from its ranks, the Union 
League Club had a definite political agenda. After visiting 
the clubhouse in 1863, the New York Times editor wrote, 

The object of the Union League Club is to awaken 
the vigilance of all our naturally leading classes for 
the future; and to secure, by social influence, as 
well as by political argument, an organization which 
shall make "activity in politics" the reverse of low 
hereafter; — which shall, in fact, hereafter cause 
"non-activity in politics" to be the stamp and stain 
of an imbecile and a driveler. 42 

In the eyes of some club members, a disinterest in public 
affairs on the part of the nation's economic and social 
elite had led to the Civil War. 

As a national organization, the Union League 
was dedicated to Republican principles and policies. 
After Lee's surrender, it extended its branches into 
the Southern states to instruct newly enfranchised blacks 
about their political rights and to recruit them into 
party membership. +3 Reconstruction historian Eric 
Foner notes, "By the end of 1867, it seemed, virtually 
every black voter in the South had enrolled in the 
Union League or some equivalent local political organi- 
zation." Nor were League activities limited to politics; 
at the local level, these organizations supported educa- 
tion, religion, and health care and participated in the 
fight for economic justice. 44 

Although the Union League Club in New York 
was far removed from the hard work of Reconstruction, 
its members had a vital interest in the freedmen's 
progress to full citizenship. As voters, African Americans 
had the potential power to secure Republican hege- 
mony in the former Confederacy. Northern 
Republicans, who were divided on the issue of negro 
suffrage in their own states, universally endorsed it 
for the South. For Union League Club members in par- 
ticular, support of black rights was a corollary of party 
loyalty. 45 

Sherwood's own brand of Republican activism — 
most notably, his fight against taxes and assessments and 
the gas monopoly — was more closely tied to economic 
interests than to political or social concerns. Although his 
1866 purchase of Army Teamsters suggests some sym- 
pathy for the freedmen, he never crusaded directly on 
their behalf in the Reconstruction years. Sherwood's 
obituary states that he traded with the Southern states 
from 1852 to 1857, and it is possible that he visited 
the region in these years of mounting tension over 

slavery. 46 After he abandoned commerce for real estate, 
however, his sphere of business activity became more 
localized. Sherwood's name disappears from the Union 
League Club's annual lists after 1870, at which time 
he presumably resigned his membership. 47 As far as we 
know, his attitude toward African Americans was 
unchanged by subsequent affiliations when he purchased 
Weaning the Calf. 

Homer's knowledge of black people was more 
personal and more extensive than Sherwood's. Having 
grown up in abolitionist Boston, he first encountered 
escaped slaves as a "special correspondent" for Harper's 
Weekly. By tracing, as Wood and Dalton have done, 
Homer's images of blacks through the Civil War and 
Reconstruction years, we can see him progress from tra- 
ditional stereotypes to profound and original represen- 
tations of African-American history and psychology. 
Through direct observation of the freedmen, the artist 
gradually learned to see their point of view. 

Army Teamsters and Weaning the Calf exemplify 
the evolution of Homer's vision. In the former, the 
foregrounding of the lounging figures seems to 
assert the black man's right to rest after a day's (in fact 
a lifetime's) labor. Linda Ayres finds this picture, the 
first Homer painted for Sherwood, more sympathetic 
than its prototype, The Bright Side. "In Army Teamsters," 
she notes, "the reclining muleteers are less the center 
of attention; indeed the rest of the extensive Union 
encampment shares their lethargy." 48 Ayres's observa- 
tion is apt, yet Army Teamsters still recalls stereotypes 
of the lazy negro. The wide-eyed expression of the man 
who pokes his head through the tent flap adds a comic 
note that further inhibits a serious reading. 49 

Weaning the Calf, painted almost ten years later, 
is an altogether different representation of African- 
American character. The black protagonist is shown 
here laboring rather than lounging; he is, moreover, 
active, resolute, and self-directed. Wood and Dalton 
write, "It would seem that from Homer's viewpoint 
blacks were not simply being weaned, they were par- 
ticipating in the liberating process of growing up. "5° 
After his return to Virginia during Reconstruction, 
the artist saw emancipation in a new light. 

The black youth in Weaning the Calf pays no 
attention to his white observers, yet neither their faces 
nor their gestures bespeak a sense of insignificance. 
On the contrary, the elder boy recognizes the black 
youth's determination, and though he does not actually 
assist him, the younger boy extends his left arm toward 
the calf. As embodiments of a Northern white attitude, 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI, 1993 



and more specifically that of Sherwood and his Union 
League Club colleagues, these boys affirm the rreed- 
man's pluck while covertly aiming to guide his progress. 
Standing on the sidelines, they have a bearing that 
suggests command. 

In Weaning the Calf, Homer juxtaposed two views 
of emancipation, his own and that of his patron. On the 
one hand, we see the African American, with his back 
toward an unseen future as he struggles to separate him- 
self from his tragic past. On the other, we see white 
Americans, overseeing the freedman's progress without 
acknowledging the challenge that it poses. These contra- 
dictory perspectives vie for authority in a way that 
leaves the drama unresolved. 

Compared to earlier works on which it is based, 
Weaning the Calf is full of uncertainty. While Tlie Unruly 
Calf may be seen as a common country incident, the 
Raleigh picture depicts a turning point for the young 
animal — and the African American. The outcome 
of the action is undecided, and Homer has underscored 
this fact by lengthening the distance between the black 
youth and his resistant double. A close look at the paint- 
ing reveals, moreover, that the rope that binds them 
has already broken once and been retied. 

While Homer expanded his composition in one 
direction, he further increased the tension by contracting 
it in another. In Weaning the Calf the farmyard 
setting from Haystacks and Children has been significantly 
altered. The artist removed the building at the left, 
opened up the pasture on the right, omitted the horses, 
and closed the gap between the haystacks. At the same 
time, he pushed the young farmer boys closer together 
than they appear in the 1873 painting.-^ 1 The purpose of 
these changes becomes evident when one looks at the 
composition as a whole. In this symbolic representation 
of the African American's struggle to wean himself 
from slavery, Homer shows him, quite blatantly, cross- 
ing the world of white control. 

The more one studies Weaning the Calf the more it 
becomes clear that the black youth and white spectators 
have been compressed into a narrow, almost claustro- 
phobic space in front of the left haystack (fig. 12). 
Infrared reflectography has revealed that the artist revised 
his original composition in this area. By enlarging the 
white boys (and simultaneously decreasing the size of the 
cow), he brought them closer to the action and made 
them more significant as observers of it (fig. 13). 52 The 
triad of figures captures the viewer's attention and poses 
a difficult question. We are left wondering how, or 

whether, in fact, black and white perspectives can be 

Weaning the Calf is, in the final analysis, an image 
of passage. For Homer, it constituted a bridge between 
the nostalgic images of rural New England and the 
powerful portrayals of Southern blacks that distinguish 
his Reconstruction work. For Sherwood, this painting 
signaled a new relationship with Homer, which called 
for reinterpretation rather than elaboration of existing 
themes. For Americans, black and white, Weaning 
the Calf exemplifies the tensions involved in leading an 
emancipated people from past to future. 

When John H. Sherwood died 111 1887, his 
obituary made no mention of his achievement as an art 
collector. His life was distinguished, according to the 
New York Times, by his business activities, his club mem- 
berships, and the size of his estate. Without question, 
however, Sherwood's patronage of Winslow Homer in 
the postbellum years encouraged the artist to think more 
deeply about African Americans and white Americans 
and their relationship to one another. In Weaning the 
Calf, the final product of their association, Homer repre- 
sented a problem of perspective that the nation is still 
struggling to resolve. 

Linda f. Docherty is associate professor of art, 
Bowdoiii College. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 



Commissioned by John H. Sherwood, New York, 1875; 

Sherwood/Hart Sale, New York, Geo. A. Leavitt & Co., 

17 December 1879, lot 49; sold to Alfred R. Whitney, New York 

(price $290.00); to son, Maurice Whitney, Albany, 

New York; [Macbeth Gallery, New York, 1935]; Stephen C. 

Clark, New York, 1935; [Macbeth Gallery]; Mrs. Jacob H. 

Rand, 1946; [Babcock Galleries, New York, 1948-52]; [John Levy 

Galleries, New York, 1952]; sold to the North Carolina Museum 

of Art, 1952. 

Select Exhibitions 

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Winslow 
Homer Centenary Exhibition," 15 December 1936— 15 January 
1937, no. 11. 

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Winslow 
Homer," 3 October-2 November 1944. 

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, "Winslow Homer, 
A Retrospective Exhibition," 23 November 1958-4 January 1959, 
then traveling, no. 35. 

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Winslow 
Homer," 3 April— 3 June 1973, then traveling, no. 34. 

Houston, The Meml Collection, "Winslow Homer's Images 

of Blacks: The Civil War and Reconstruction Years," 21 October 

1988-8 July 1989, then traveling, no. 23. 

Select Bibliography 

Lloyd Goodrich. Winslow Homer. New York: Macmillan, 
1945, 32-33, 72- 

John Wilmerding. Winslow Homer. New York: Praeger, 1972, 
90-91, illus. figs. 3-29. 

Gordon Hendricks. The Life and Work of Winslow Homer. New 
York: Abrams, 1979, 104, 1 15, listed and illus. no CL546. 

Mary Ann Calo. "Winslow Homer's Visits to Virginia during 
Reconstruction." American Art Journal 12 (Winter 1980): 4-27, 10, 
18-19, illus. fig. 9. 

Peter H. Wood and Karen C. C. Dalton. Winslow Homer's Images 
of Blacks: Tlte Civil War and Reconstruction Years. Austin: University 
of Texas Press, 1988, 70—72, illus. fig. 36. 


1. In the course of preparing this article, I have received valuable 
comments and criticisms from many colleagues. My deepest 
thanks go to Peter Wood and Karen Dalton, whose landmark 
exhibition of Homer's images of blacks provided the inspiration 
and foundation for my own research. I am also indebted to John 
Coffey, Abigail Booth Gerdts, Roger Stein, and Susan Wegner, to 
Alexis Guise for her assistance in my research, and to Susan 
Ransom for her thoughtful, and thought-provoking, editing. 

2. To avoid repetition, "African American" and "black" are used 
interchangeably in this essay. The word "negro" is used only 
when referring to a nineteenth-century point of view. 

3. For a discussion of the gaze in Homer's art, see Christopher 
Reed, "The Artist and the Other: The Work of Winslow 
Homer," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (Spring 1989): 68-79. 

4. See Mary Ann Calo, "Winslow Homer's Visits to Virginia during 
Reconstruction," American Art Journal 12 (Winter 1980): 10-16. 

5. See William Howe Downes, Tlie Life and Works of Winslow 
Homer (New York: Dover Publications 1979), 85-86. 

6. Homer first made blacks his primary subject in Army Boots 
(Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden) and Tlie Bright Side 
(fig. 12), both of 1865. For a discussion of this development, see 
Peter H. Wood and Karen C. C. Dalton, Winslow Homer's Images 
if Blacks: Tlie Civil War and Reconstruction Years (Austin: University 
of Texas Press, 1988), 51-52. 

7. Young Farmer Boys was purchased jointly by Babcock Galleries 
and Milch Gallery in 1941 and sold through Macbeth Gallery in 
1942. It measured 14 3/8 by 21 1/2 inches and was inscribed at 
the lower right "W. H., Oct. 11, 1873." The painting is currently 
unlocated. I would like to thank Dr. John Driscoll of Babcock 
Galleries for providing this information. 

8. The same hillside and cattle can be seen in A Gloucester Farm 
(1874, Philadelphia Museum of Art). 

9. See Calo, 18, note 23. Critical commentary on this picture 
focused primarily on Homer's achievement as an animal painter. 
See "The Arts," Appleton's Journal n.s. 6 (6 November 1875): 603, 
and "The Arts: The Academy Exhibition," Appleton's Journal 15 
(22 April 1876): 539. 

10. Wood and Dalton suggest that he may have been the model 
for Two Boys in a Cart (119, note 151), and I believe he is also 
recognizable in Uncle Ned at Home (1875, present whereabouts 

11. See Calo, 19, note 25. 

12. See John Wilmerding, "Winslow Homer's Creative Process," 
Antiques 108 (November 1975): 965-71. 

13. New York Evening Post, (5 January 1876): 1 (misquoted in Calo). 

14. To my knowledge, Tlie Unruly Calf and Weaning the Calf have 
been publicly exhibited together only once. See Winslow Homer: 
A Retrospective Exhibition (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, in collab- 
oration with the National Gallery of Art and the Metropolitan 
Museum of Art, 1959), 40, 45. 

15. Lorinda Bryant, What Pictures to See in America (New York: John 
Lane Co., 1915), 146. 

16. See Lorinda Bryant, American Pictures and Tlieir Painters (New 
York: Dodd, Mead, 1926), 66. 

17. Calo, 10. 

18. Wood and Dalton, 70. Michael Quick had previously noted that 
The Unruly Calf might be grouped with Homer's images of cotton 
pickers in a category of "work subjects." See Michael Quick, 

"Homer in Virginia," Los Angeles County Museum of Art Bulletin 
24 (1978): 66. 

19. "A Home for the Artists," New York Times (2 May 1879): 8. 

20. Biographical information on Sherwood is derived from 
"Obituary. John H. Sherwood," New York Times, 18 March 

1887, 5. See also "John H. Sherwood's Funeral," New York Times, 
21 March 1887, 2. On his estate, see "John H. Sherwood's 
Bequests," New York Times, 31 March 1887, 8. 

21. "Real Estate and Its Future Prospects," New York Times, 23 

September 1875, 7. 

22. Ibid. See also, "Miscellaneous City News: Up-Town 
Assessments. The Property Owners' Side of the Case," New York 
Times, 11 March 1879, 3. 

4 8 

23. "The Gas Monopoly," New York Times, 15 May 1884, 8. 

24. Neii' York Times, 2 May 1879. In 1881, the product of 
Sherwood's vision was described as "an ugly staring brick building 
which dominates the disheveled corner of the city at Fifth Avenue 
[sic] and Fifty-seventh Street." Although the writer found the 
studio building "a lamentable affair outside," he conceded that the 
interior "seems to meet very well the requirements of the artists." 
See "Events in the Metropolis: An Artists' Reception," New York 
Times, 25 February 1881, 5. 

25. See "Paintings on the Block. Selling the Sherwood and Hart 
Collections," New York Times, 18 December 1879, 5. 

26. "The Arts: The Sherwood Collection," New York Times, 

27 April 1873, 3. This sale may also have been related to the 
financial panic of 1873, which Sherwood's obituary notes 
that he survived. 

27. New York Times, 18 December 1879, 5. 

28. Illustrated Catalogue: Mr. John H. Sherwood's Collection of 
Paintings — Mr. Benjamin Hart's Collection of Paintings (New York: 
Geo. A. Leavitt & Co., 1879). 

29. Trow's New York City Directory has no listing for Sherwood from 
1872-73 to 1875-76. 

30. John H. Sherwood. Collection of fine modern oil paintings now on 
exhibition at his residence and gallery (New York: Leavitt Auctioneers, 

31. In a recent catalogue of the Valentine-Pulsifer collection, Linda 
Ayres accepts Marc Simpson's suggestion that Army Teamsters was 
commissioned by Lawson Valentine when he was unable to pur- 
chase Tlie Bright Side. See John Wilmerding and Linda Ayres, 
Wiuslow Homer in the 1870s: Selections from the Valentine-Pubifer 
Collection (Princeton: The Art Museum, 1990), 19-20, 30, and 
Marc Simpson, Winslow Homer Paintings of the Civil War (San 
Francisco: Fine Arts Museums, Bedford Arts, Publishers, 1988), 
201. Although Valentine owned Army Teamsters later in the centu- 
ry when it was reproduced as a chromolithograph, the picture 
appears to have been originally painted for Sherwood. The 1873 
sale of Army Teamsters may help to explain Homer's renewed 
interest in black subjects and his return to the South for material 
soon after that date. 

32. With the exception of Tlie Country School, these related pictures 
all predate those in Sherwood's collection. Although A New 
England Country School is dated 1873, it may be a study for the 
Saint Louis painting. Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., makes this observation 
in "Winslow Homer's School Time: 'A Picture Thoroughly 
National,'" in Essays in Honor of Paul Mellon, Collector and 
Benefactor, ed. John Wilmerding (Washington, D.C.: National 
Gallery of Art, 1986), 48. 

33. On Army Teamsters and Tlie Bright Side, see Ayres and 
Wilmerding, 29-33, an d Simpson, 201. 

34. On A New England Country School, see Winslow Homer at the 
Addison (Andover: Addison Gallery of American Art, Phillips 
Academy, 1990), 16-18, 72. 

35. On the two versions of Snap the Wliip, see Natalie Spassky, 
American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum, vol. 2 (New York: 
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1985), 457-61. Infrared reflectog- 
raphy shows that the Metropolitan painting originally had the 
same mountainous background. A wood engraving of Snap the 
Wlhp published in Harper's Weekly on 20 September 1 873 has the 
same setting as the Youngstown picture. 

36. Scholars assume Tlie Unruly Calf preceded Weaning the Calf not 
only because of its greater simplicity, but also because of contem- 
porary commentary. When the reviewer for Appleton's Journal vis- 
ited Homer's studio in November 1875, he noted that "a sham- 
bling young white calf figured prominently in several of the 
artist's recent works. He described in detail "a large and careful 
study [in which] a colored boy, big-headed, thin-armed, and 
ragged stands in the shade of a tree, braced energetically back, 
with his feet set well apart, dragging by a rope this timid struggling 
calf, who pulls back from him." "The Arts," Appleton's Journal n.s. 
6 (6 November 1875): 603. The fact that this writer makes no 
mention of either the white boys or the mother cow suggests that 
he is referring to The Unruly Calf rather than to the Raleigh pic- 

37. On this subject, see Sarah Burns, "Barefoot Boys and Other 
Country Children: Sentiment and Ideology in Nineteenth- 
Century American Art," American Art Journal 20 (1988): 24—50. 

38. See Jules Prown, "Winslow Homer in His Art," Smithsonian 
Studies in American Art 1 (Spring 1987): 34. 

39. See Charles Leslie Glenn, Jr., The Myth of the Common School 
(Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1988), chap. 3, 

"Social Anxiety and the Common School," 63-85. 

40. See Will Irwin, et. al., A History of the Union League Club 
(New York: Dodd Mead, 1952). 

41. "Mr. f. H. Sherwood on the Presidential Nominees," New York 

Times, 2 July 1876, 1. 

42. "The Union League Club," New York Times, 30 August 1863, 4-5. 

43. James M. McPherson, Ordeal by Fire: Tlie Civil War and 
Reconstruction, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1981), 527. 

44. Eric Foner, A Short Histor)' of Reconstruction (New York: Harper & 
Row, 1990), 125-26. 

45. In 1876, a New York Times article described the "club-character" 
of the Union League Club as "thoughtful, heroic, and active." It 
defended its Republican partisanship against Democratic incur- 
sion, warning, "If it shall be reduced to a mere place of amuse- 
ment, it will cease to be a power or an honor." See "The Union 
League Club," New York Times, 26 December 1876, 4. 

46. New York Times, 18 March 1887, 5. 

47. Sherwood's name first appears in the Union League Club's annual 
list in 1864, the year after the club was founded. It disappears after 
1870. I would like to thank Roger Friedman, librarian and curator 
of the Union League Club, for providing this information. 

48. Ayres and Wilmerding, 32. 

49. On the comic in Tlie Bright Side, see Simpson, 47-63. 

50. Wood and Dalton, 72. 

51. The Winslow Homer catalogue raisonne includes a second, 
smaller oil study of the two young farmers. It is more loosely 
painted than the Babcock picture and shows the figures standing 
closer together, as they do in Weaning the Calf. Manuscript cata- 
logue raisonne of the works of Winslow Homer by Lloyd 
Goodrich, courtesy of the City University of New York, Lloyd 
and Edith Havens Goodrich, Whitney Museum of American Art 
Record of the Works of Winslow Homer, under the sponsorship 
of Spanierman Gallery. This painting is reproduced in Art 
Quarterly 9 (Autumn 1946): 356. 

52. North Carolina Museum of Art, Conservation Laboratory, 
Examination Report, 14 March 1988, 3. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI. 1993 



Indian Fantasy: Marsden Hartley's 
Myth of Amerika in Expressionist Berlin 

Patricia McDonnell 

Fig. I 

Marsden Hartley (1877-1943), Indian 
Fantasy, 1914. Oil on canvas, 46 "At x 
39V16 in. (118. 6 x 99.7 cm.), unsigned. 
North Carolina Museum of Art. 
Purchased with funds from the State 
of North Carolina, 75.1.4. 

Among the prize works of art in the North 
Carolina Museum of Art collection is Marsden Hartley's painting of 
1914, Indian Fantasy (fig. i). The artist's title suits this work perfectly, 
for the painting makes no attempt to portray accurately the customs, 
values, or art of the Native American. Rather, this is a representation 
of Indian culture according to a white man's vision and for his purposes. 
Not an Indian reality, Hartley's painting presents an Indian fantasy. 

Hartley painted Indian Fantasy in Berlin in the 
weeks just prior to the outbreak of World War I in 1914, a fact which 
further distances cultural fact from artistic fiction. The painting is one 
of four that Hartley executed on the theme of Amerika in prewar 
Berlin. This examination of Hartley's painting in the North Carolina 
Museum of Art collection focuses upon its context in the Amerika 
series and the unique adoption of Native- American subject matter by 
an American modernist living in a foreign land. 

Hartley first visited Germany's capital in January 
1913 on a trip from Paris. In France since the previous spring, he had 
settled into the routine of the American expatriate artist. He frequent- 
ed the famous salon of Gertrude and Leo Stein, appeared at the gal- 
leries and annual salon openings attended by the vanguard, and circu- 
lated among the Montparnasse cafes. He was friendly with such inter- 
national artists then living in Paris as Robert Delaunay, Frantisek 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI, 1993 


Kupka, and Jacob Epstein. Yet he began to weary of 
this scene. The French seemed too ready with analysis 
and answers to too many questions for Hartley. He 
became especially convinced of this point of view after 
traveling to Berlin and Munich and meeting several 
artists of the Blaue Reiter group. He articulated this per- 
spective, claiming that "the new German tendency is 
a force to be reckoned with — to my own taste far more 
earnest and effective than the french intellectual move- 
ments." 1 Convinced that conditions in Germany were 
more conducive to his nature and aesthetic inclinations, 
Hartley left Paris for Berlin in late April 191 3. 

His move to Germany and encounters with its 
expressionist art scene helped Hartley to make significant 
strides in his art. For several years the artist had been at 
an impasse. False starts, erratic style changes, and conspic- 
uous borrowings from other painters dogged his output. 
Hoping to move to and then living in Germany encour- 
aged a profound artistic catharsis. Starting with his 
several paintings on the theme of musical reverie and 
continuing in his abstracted portrayals of Berlin's urban 

dynamism, Hartley broke new ground and began to 
define his own original vision. 

He lifted his spirits in Berlin initially by eagerly 
taking in the new environment and by looking forward 
to the prospect of sales through the landmark survey 
of modern painting organized by Berlin's primary venue 
for expressionism, Der Sturm, and its Erster Deutscher 
Herbstsalon (first German fall salon). 2 But his hopes were 
dashed, and after a year and a half abroad, Hartley 
had not sold a single painting. Although his connections 
in Germany — with Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky 
of Der Blaue Reiter and Herwarth Walden of Der Sturm — 
strengthened over time and promised eventual sales, 
Hartley was destitute and needed to return to New York. 
On his arrival, Alfred Stieglitz, his dealer since 1909, 
arranged a one-man exhibition for January and February 
191 4. The sales netted Hartley sufficient capital to return 
to Berlin unhampered by serious money problems for 
another year and one-half. 

His return to the States yielded more than limited 
financial independence. Hartley disliked what he 


Fig- 3 

Marsden Hartley, American Indian 
Symbols, 1914. Oil on canvas, 39 x 39 in. 
Private Collection. Photograph 
courtesy of Hirschl and Adler Galleries, 
New York. 

Fig- 4 

Marsden Hartley, Painting No. 50, 
1914. Oil on canvas, 47 x 47 in. Terra 
Museum of American Art, Chicago, 
Illinois. Daniel J. Terra Collection. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


witnessed in New York, a place he considered "an 
inferno" and "ruler of [the] hard hard face." Dismayed 
by the country's commercial materialism, he observed 
that "everything is so screwed up and run to the 
machinery of business — the buildings get higher + 
the streets deeper + the people less and less like human 
beings — more like vermin — wigglers and creepers. . . . 
How ridiculous it is to be an American in these 
ways," he lamented. Hartley described the virus he 
perceived as an "iron humanity." 3 So enamored 
of his life in Berlin, Hartley seemed to reject New York 
out of hand. Even before his return to New York, 
he had predicted these sentiments when he wrote, "I 
have spiritual freedom such as I have not known 
before — I could not accomplish in New York what I can 
here [in Berlin] because life is against me there." 4 - In 
contrast, he believed Berlin to be "essentially the center 
of modern life in Europe," and a place "lively, gay 
+ joyful." 5 

A perplexing paradox and tension underlie such 
musing on Hartley's part, for he disdained American 
materialism at the very moment that he acknowledged 
his nature, or "essence" as he called it, to be American. 
In moving to Berlin, he had conceded that "I could 
never be french — I could never become German — I shall 
always remain the American — the essence which is in 
me is American mysticism." 6 Given his belief in a mysti- 
cal heritage that he saw as uniquely American, he 
might have asked himself in New York how one so 
resonant with spirituality could hail from a culture 
so defiled by dollar values? 

His trip home had focused the artist's attention on 
this disparity. Returning to Berlin, he wrestled 
further with this question of an American identity. Being 
abroad in a land where he scarcely spoke the language 
seems to have compounded the problem for him. After 
several months of artistic paralysis back in Berlin, 
Hartley embarked on a series of works to express his 
"ideas and sensations on the word America," which 
he also often spelled AmerikaJ Yet, the America he 
depicted had nothing to do with a modern metropolis 
or bustling activity of contemporary life, the "America" 
he had just experienced in New York. Berlin's 
metropolitan fast pace and its imperial pageantry had 
been the subject of Hartley's most recent painting, 
but he discarded this theme when dealing with clearly 
American content. Instead, Hartley turned to Native 
Americans and their ancient culture to symbolize what 
he most admired in his native culture. For Hartley, 

the Indian was able to recoup the nobility he believed 
intrinsic to an American heritage, yet so absent from its 
twentieth-century capitalism. 

America's industrialization, technological advances, 
and burgeoning world influence were barren symbols for 
Hartley and depicted aspects of the American way 
repugnant to him. The white man's arcadian myth of 
the noble savage in the American wilderness, how- 
ever, supplied imagery that could communicate positive 
values, in Hartley's eyes, regarding his homeland. 

Writing from Berlin after the Guns of August had 
been sounded in 19 14, Hartley confirmed that "the war 
came when I had but finished four pictures on the 
idea of Amerika." 8 With this museum's Indian Fantasy 
(fig. 1), these four paintings include Indian Composition 
(fig. 2), American Indian Symbols (fig. 3), and Painting 
No. 30 (fig. 4). Common subject matter and stylistic 
characteristics clearly designate these four works as 
the Amerika series. 9 In each, an architecture of geo- 
metrical patterning organizes a panoply of Native- 
American motifs — teepees and canoes, headdresses and 
thunderbirds, sunbursts and campfires. The jumble 
of pictorial elements congeals into a forcefully ordered 
structure, so that frenetic agitation couples with classic 
restraint. The triangle of the centralized teepee serves to 
stabilize the composition, and the symmetry of elements 
to its left and right also helps to contain Hartley's 
energetic pictorial discord. 

The patterned construction of these images, as 
other scholars have documented, reproduces important 
features of Bavarian liinterglasmalerie (votive glass 
painting) and Native-American art. These sources would 
have been important to Hartley since he acquired 
several hinterglasmalerie examples and visited the excep- 
tional displays of Native-American objects then being 
collected at Berlin's Museum fur Volkerkunde. 10 
Although adopting certain design motifs from these 
sources of inspiration, Hartley went characteristically 
far beyond them in his pictorial invention. 

The symmetry and graphic organization, while 
reminiscent of Indian designs, were in fact growing 
concerns in Hartley's art. Before his forced departure 
from Berlin in November 191 3, Hartley produced a 
series of works that appropriated scenes and motifs 
from the daily fare of Germany's imperial capital. Portrait 
of Berlin (fig. 5) and The Warriors (fig. 6) , both meant 
as abstract and therefore evocative "portraits of 
moments," reveal a similar tendency toward pictorial 
organization. 11 Perhaps in these works the symmetry 


Fig- 5 

Marsden Hartley, Portrait of Berlin, 1913. 
Oil on canvas, 39V4 x in. Yale 
Collection of American Literature, 
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript 
Library, Yale University. 

Fig. 6 

Marsden Hartley, The Warriors, 1913. 
Oil on canvas, 47% x 47V2 in. 
The Regis Collection, Minneapolis, 

is less insistent and the ordering less rigid, but they 
presage clearly the rigor of patterning seen in the later 
Amerika series. 

Indian Fantasy is a fine example of this reliance upon 
patterning. The painting is organized around the symme- 
try created by a central teepee or triangular form. In 
this instance, a teepee perches upon the lowest point of 
the canvas, elders in feathered headdresses flank it left 
and right, and a purely decorative teepee shape acts as a 
cohesive framing device immediately behind this fore- 
ground scene. More blanketed and headdressed Indians 
appear paired in canoes in three horizontal bands — 
streams replete with fish — which dominate the middle 
ground. Unlike others from this series, Indian Fantasy 
is crowned by a monumental setting sun and thunderbird 
with powerfully outspread wings. The bold semicircular 
sun and simply stylized bird break up the very detailed 
pattern below. These motifs balance the intricacy below 
with a graceful, overarching structure, and the resulting 
composition demonstrates Hartley's sophisticated ability 
to use patterning without excess. The crowning icons 
provide an all-important cohesion and visual clarity. 

Gail Levin has connected Hartley's motifs in Indian 
Fantasy with specific objects on display at the time in the 
Museum fur Volkerkunde. A particular kachina exhibits 
the same encircled eight-pointed stars, for example, 
and red, yellow, and green color scheme. 12 In addition, 
the soaring bird and setting sun identify this work as 
one of the forty-five paintings Hartley included in a one- 
man retrospective just before he left Berlin in 191 5. 
These motifs are unique to this painting, and are not 
seen in others from the Amerika series. A New York 
Times reviewer for Hartley's 191 5 Berlin show character- 
ized one of the works on view as "a cross between 
an ancient Egyptian owl and an ultramodern American 
eagle brooding over a sultry lake on which four stolid 
cigar store Indians are drifting in a canoe." 13 Without 
doubt, he was describing the composition and imagery 
of Indian Fantasy. 

Contemporary painting sources also provide no 
true precedent or touchstone for the hieratic order 
Hartley employed in his series on the American Indian. 
Indebted to cubism and futurism alike, the Amerika 
series functions beyond these in its highly stylized place- 
ment of independent pictorial elements across a cohesive 
two-dimensional field. Two paintings that do not strictly 
belong to the Amerika series, yet conspicuously follow 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


Fig. 7 

Marsden Hartley, Painting No. 2, 1914. 
Oil on canvas, 39V2 x 32 in. 
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of 
the William H. Lane Foundation. 


it, are Painting No. 2 (Arrangement Hieroglyphics) (fig. 7) 
and Abstract Arrangement of Indian Symbols (fig. 8). They 
illustrate a similar penchant for tightly organized pattern- 
ing, one which yields an overwhelmingly decorative pic- 
torial effect. Since color is unmodulated in these paint- 
ings and in those of the Amerika series, the spectator may 
want to read perspectival recession. His effort is thwarted 
by the pressure of flat color and pattern against the pic- 
ture plane. 

Moreover, the unshaded color, the all-over pattern- 
ing, and a carefully constructed scaffold for the composi- 
tion made their appearance in work by Hartley preced- 
ing the Amerika series, but matured fully only with this 
series. Hartley capitalized on his achievement thereafter 
by reworking these features of his innovative style in 
the final group of paintings from this Berlin period, his 
War Motifs series. : 4 Even the hastiest comparison of 

Abstract Arrangement of Indian Symbols (fig. 8) and Military 
(fig. 9) demonstrates this progressive evolution. Although 
in early paintings from the War Motifs series, such as 
Painting No. 47 from 19 14 (fig. 10), Hartley allowed his 
structure to loosen, he reverted eventually to the 
restrained symmetry evident in the Amerika series. 
Military of 191 5 demonstrates this return to simplified 

It is important to recognize, therefore, that 
Hartley's group of paintings on the theme of the Native 
American represents his first formulation of a pictorial 
style that won him critical acclaim from 191 5 forward. 
Hartley's War Motifs paintings are thought to be among 
the finest he wrought in his entire career. That assess- 
ment among historians of American art owes much to 
Hartley's earlier pictorial accomplishment with the 
Amerika series. In short, work from his Berlin residency 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


maintains Hartley's place on the select roster of American 
early modernist masters to this day. 

These same historians and other admirers of 
Hartley's art have pondered his odd appropriation of 
the Native American while in prewar Germany. It 
is admittedly a curious episode in American art history. 
Yet, several contextual factors were at play that make 
Hartley's interest not so strange after all. Certainly 
Hartley had his own reasons for making use of Native- 
American imagery. As already mentioned, the artist 
was then grappling with questions he had regarding his 
identity as an American. His attention turned to the 
American West while he was abroad, and it is reasonable 
to conclude that the European fascination with the 
American frontier and its native inhabitants promoted 
Hartley's interest. Tales of the American West seemed to 
entrance an eager German following. Several of these 
contextual forces were fertile sources for Hartley's art. 

America has captivated the European imagination 
since the discovery of the New World in the fifteenth 
century. 15 In the Germany of the late eighteenth centu- 
ry, Schiller eulogized the American Indian in poetry 
and Goethe and Hegel agreed that America was "the 
land of the future." 16 However, the notion of a noble 
savage first gained widespread appeal in the Western 
intellectual tradition when Jean-Jacques Rousseau 
advanced the thought that man is born fundamentally 
good and equal. He argued in 1754 that "nothing is 
more mild and gentle than man in his primitive state," 
and gave evidence for his point by reviewing "the exam- 
ple of savages." 17 Haifa century later, Francois-Rene 
de Chateaubriand, a seminal French Romanticist, 
embodied Rousseau's ideas in his books about the noble 
savages of America. His tales about ordeals in the 
American wilderness, Atala (1801) in particular, were 
immensely popular across Europe and instantly trans- 
lated for an avid German readership. Ironically, 
Chateaubriand was the first to use the Indian as material 
for fiction, but his characters were modeled after 
courtly idealists. They were "salon-Indians," as one 
historian called them. 18 

James Fenimore Cooper supplied a truer picture of 
Indian life in the American West in his Leatherstocking 
tales. In such novels as The Pioneers (1824) and The 
Last of the Mohicans (1826), the travails of American fron- 
tier life were described in bolder flesh-and-blood 
terms. In Cooper's spellbinding narratives, a wilderness 
scout, Natty Bumppo, alias Leatherstocking, and his 

Indian companion, Chingachgook, confront the perils 
and delight in the rapturous natural beauties of life in 
the New World's uncivilized territories. The Germans 
had a voracious appetite for these stories, and Cooper's 
works were translated quickly. Surprised by this recep- 
tion abroad, William Cullen Bryant (like Cooper an 
author of the Knickerbocker circle) affirmed that "all 
are reading Cooper!" 19 

In fact, Cooper defined the genre of cowboy-and- 
Indian fiction well into the twentieth century. Not sur- 
prisingly, German authors were quick to emulate his 
success and thereby meet the public demand for stories 
about the Wild West. Consequently, an enormous litera- 
ture on the Native American has existed in Germany 
dating from Cooper's rise to fame in the first half of the 
nineteenth century. Much of it was written by people 
who never saw the States' Atlantic shoreline and whose 
eyes certainly never rested upon a tumbleweed or toma- 
hawk in situ. Examples of the genre range in quality 
from the literate prose of Charles Sealsfield, Friedrich 
Gerstacker, and Balduin Mollhausen to the grisly 
realist sensationalism of Schnndliteratur (pulp novels). 

The work of Karl May probably fits somewhere 
between these extremes. While no original literary 
genius, he was and continues to be one of the best-read 
German writers. One historian conjectured that his 
influence has been "greater than that of any other 
German author between Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 
and Thomas Mann," a claim made in large part because 
his success is so enduring. 20 May wrote in the latter 
half of the nineteenth century but has remained popular 
well into the twentieth. Given the wealth of interest 
in his Western sagas at the turn of the century, it is 
difficult to imagine that Hartley could have avoided 
knowledge of Karl May or of Germany's mania for 
the Wild West. 

Mirroring Cooper's successful formula, May 
centered his stories on the hero team of a white adven- 
turer, Old Shatterhand, and an Apache Indian chief, 
Winnetou. Their exploits fill dozens of novels. In these 
tales, the clock is running out on the Indian's unham- 
pered reign over wilderness and prairie, for the westward 
march of the white man's civilization encroaches. In 
that twilight of the Indian nation, May's stories applaud 
the Native American's keen intelligence and acute 
sensitivity to nature's rhythms. His fiction celebrates the 
simple virtues of the unspoiled life led close to nature. 
His Indians, thus, are a historical reappearance of 
Rousseau's arcadian noble savages. 


Fig. 9 

Marsden Hartley, Military, 1915. 
Oil on canvas, 287s x i9 3 /t in. Jointly 
owned by the Cleveland Museum of 
Art and an Anonymous Collector, 

One critical reason for May's immense popularity 
among turn-of-the-century Germans was the nationalist 
ethos communicated in his fiction. May's true hero is the 
Teutonic adventurer, Old Shatterhand, portrayed as "a 
valiant concoction of Hopalong Cassidy, Ulysses, Christ, 
Siegfried and Kaiser Wilhelm." 21 In Old Shatterhand, 
Germania appears invincible as the sly scout outwits all 
adversaries. Further, the communalism and strict moral 
code in May's novels are an index to the Romantic 
yearning in the late nineteenth century for the simpler 
life of an agrarian past. 22 The Native American symbol- 
ized the communal style of living, humble virtue, 
and closeness to nature lost to the Germans with rapid 

In portraying the United States as a land of eco- 
nomic promise, natural beauty, and personal freedom, 
May perpetuated an eighteenth-century viewpoint. 
Goethe distilled the beliefs of his own epoch with the 

words, "Amerika, du hast es besser/Als unser Kontinent, 
das alte." 2 3 As the pioneers settled the New World, 
Europeans marveled at the potential of the vast new con- 
tinent blessed with natural beauty and unburdened by 
the repressive conventions of tradition. 

As the decades passed, however, this rosy vision 
of America changed when its industrialization reached 
near parity with that of European states. Quickly, 
America and Americans became suspect. Hartley most 
likely would have been aware of this cultural condescen- 
sion in imperial Berlin. By 1900 Amerikanismus meant the 
impulse to measure all worth by size and commercial 
value. Americans were viewed often as parvenus bereft 
of Kultur. 2 * In Germany, where massive industrialization 
spread uncontrolled in the nineteenth century, this cri- 
tique of the States masked the nation's own ambivalences 
regarding the new conditions of its modernity. 2 ^ May's 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 

Fig. 10 

Marsden Hartley, Painting No. 47, Berlin, 
1914-15. Oil on canvas, 39/2 x 31% in. 
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture 
Garden, Smithsonian Institution. 
Gift of Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1972. 


novels supported this critique unwittingly by dwelling 
upon the virtues of America's untamed past vis-a-vis the 
vices of its commercialized present. For May and his 
readers, however, the noble Native American symbol- 
ized the country's tradition-bound merits, something 
the suspect and/ or corrupt white American was then 
incapable of doing. 

The image in Germany of the crass American 
capitalist never entirely displaced the earlier vision. The 
potential of America, symbolized by its frontier, 
remained a tantalizing myth in the minds of many twen- 
tieth-century Germans. May's celebration ot America's 
natural abundance and beauty helped to sustain that 
myth. 26 A favorite of such disparate twentieth-century 
figures as Albert Schweitzer, Alfred Einstein, George 
Grosz, and Adolf Hitler, Karl May was more than a 
German Louis L' Amour because of the power of 
his influence. 

Steeped in Karl May's Western sagas, turn-of-the- 
century Europeans witnessed living representatives of this 
exotic and alluring frontier by attending the Wild West 
shows of William Cody, alias Buffalo Bill. His cowboy - 
and-Indian spectacle first toured the continent in 1889 
but was still entertaining throngs in the teens. 

One imagines that German avant-garde artists 
during Hartley's time abroad might have seen Buffalo 
Bill and his entourage, for they shared the broad-based 
fascination with the American West. When German 
expressionists rebelled against the arid academicism of 
the early twentieth-century salons and denounced the 
rampant mechanization and materialism brought about 
by industrialization, they too resurrected Rousseau's 
model, revived a Romantic archetype, and reinvigorated 
the myth of the venerable noble primitive. In throwing 
off the mantle of bourgeois convention and pursuing 
the innocence of the primitive, the expressionists placed 
new value on instinct, spontaneity, and authenticity. 
These new virtues were discovered in African and 
Cameroon art by artists of Die Brucke. Der Blaue Reiter 
members articulated their reverence for "native cultures" 
with the folk, tribal, and medieval art they illustrated in 
their Almanac. In fact, the Almanac editors included a 
Native-American blanket from the Tlingit tribe. 27 Thus, 
a veneration of the untutored and the primal in the 
Wilhelmine artistic vanguard included American-Indian 

The Berlin poetess Else Lasker-Schiiler invented an 
imaginary cult of Indians and considered herself one. The 
Blaue Reiter collaborator August Macke painted peaceful 

scenes of headdressed Native Americans on horseback 
communing with the resplendent nature about them. In 
191 5 and 19 1 6, George Grosz adopted the persona of 
an urban cowboy, attired himself occasionally in Western 
wear, and began to people his art with imagined scenes 
of the American West. 28 Hartley's voice was therefore 
only one among many praising the culture of Native 
Americans in Germany's expressionist era. 

Weary of wartime difficulties in Berlin, Hartley 
went so far as to write about a retreat to Indian ways as a 
balm for the unpleasantness of the present. He wrote, 
T find myself wanting to be an Indian — to paint my face 
with symbols of that race I adore[,] go to the West and 
face the sun forever — that would seem the true expres- 
sion of human dignity [.]" 29 

While it is difficult to ascertain today what Hartley 
knew precisely about this German obsession with 
the American West, he scarcely could have avoided it 
altogether. He lived in Berlin for over two years, 
mingled in Blaue Reiter and Der Sturm circles, exhibited 
in prestigious avant-garde venues, and became quite 
integrated into German life. Moreover, the German fas- 
cination with the Wild West would have been an 
important stimulus for Hartley when he elected to pur- 
sue that subject in his painting. - ,0 In fact, it is not 
unthinkable that Hartley also understood that paintings 
with Indian imagery would sell well in the German 
art market he was so eager to enter. 

I cannot believe, however, that Hartley was motivat- 
ed purely by the prospect of sales in selecting this subject 
matter. 3 3 While it probably crossed Hartley's mind, other 
issues affected his choice of this subject, such as his 
recent focus upon his American identity, his faith in the 
lessons of nature, and his belief that "primitives" lived 
in harmony with a divine, elemental force. The German 
fascination with the American West would have placed 
Hartley in a context where it would have been difficult 
to avoid references to the Native American. I believe 
that regular reminders of this distinct American subcul- 
ture prompted Hartley to visit museum displays of Indian 
art and artifacts and to appropriate their motifs for his 
own ends. 

Whatever the initial motivating factors, for Hartley 
the Indian and his way of life functioned as an inventive 
new metaphor for the values central to the American 
transcendentalist tradition.^ 2 These values had shaped 
Hartley's personal and aesthetic development from the 
very start, and the symbol of the Native America 
appeared to Hartley as a fresh means to express them in 

North Carolina Museum of Arc Bulletin, Volume XVI, 1993 


his art. Whitman and Emerson were profound intel- 
lectual mentors for Hartley. He acknowledged his debt 
to their vision of reality repeatedly over his career. 
He praised Whitman as "our greatest American poet" 
and valued Emerson's Essays as "a Bible. "33 From 
their legacy, he acquired the firm belief in an immanent 
life force in nature, the Emersonian Over-Soul. Like 
these transcendentalists, he understood the artist's mission 
to be prophetic. Sensitive to an obscured elemental 
vitality in nature, the artist perceives it and gives it form 
and expression in high art. While in Germany, Hartley 
described this special sensitivity in correspondence. 

"There is something beyond intellect which intellect can- 
not explain — " he wrote, "there are sensations in 
the human consciousness beyond reason — and painters 
are learning to trust these sensations and make them 
authentic on canvas. This is what I am working for."34 

Accordingly, Hartley disdained rational discourse 
and believed instead that the subjective unconscious 
revealed greater knowledge about ultimate reality. 
Reticent before any aesthetic theory that seemed to 
provide absolutes as answers, Hartley countered that 

"true art cannot explain itself."- 35 Instead, the intuitive 
experience of the individual was paramount for 
Hartley and his transcendentalist forefathers. Emerson 
challenged artists to "speak your latent conviction 
and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due 
time becomes the outmost." 36 Hartley took up this 
challenge along with legions of his contemporaries who 
chafed against the material orientation of the newly 
industrialized world at the turn of the century. 

Hartley's German counterparts experienced the 
same discontent with a repressive materialism. 
Expressionists urgently sought solutions to the ills of 
the too quickly industrialized society about them. In 
large measure, their unwillingness to accept the status 
quo of a bourgeois culture fixated upon new technology 
and capitalist expansion generated the utopianism of 
German expressionism. They sought answers beyond the 
unacceptable present and proposed art as the way out 
of their era's impasse. Importantly, a new art would her- 
ald "an epoch of great spirituality," in Wassily 
Kandinsky's words, and "bring the grandest formation, 
transformation, the world has ever experienced," in 
Franz Marc's. 37 In other words, it was a new spirituality, 
communicated through a new and radical art, that 
would supply the antidote to a society too concentrated 
on possessions and the bottom line. 

Such notions struck a resonant chord in Hartley. 
The artist's departure from France and move to Germany 
in 191 3 relates directly to his discovery of self among 
the German expressionists. Franz Marc, for example, had 
written in 1910 that "I am seeking to intensify my 
feeling for the organic rhythm of all things. I am seeking 
to empathize pantheistically with the quiver and flow 
of blood in nature, in the trees, in the animals, in the air, 
and ... to make a picture of it, with new movement 
and with color that will make a mockery of the old type 
of easel painting." 38 This declaration enunciates clearly 
the common ground between German expressionist 
thought and the residual transcendentalism in American 
early modernism. Hartley identified strongly with 
Marc's agenda for a new subjective art. He too hoped to 
invent new pictorial terms for a vital force he sensed 
in life about him. He too vowed "to express a fresh con- 
sciousness of what I see + feel around me — taken 
directly out of life. "39 In fact, Hartley met with Marc 
and Kandinsky as he moved from Paris to Berlin 
and subsequently confessed to Marc that "we come to 
practically the same conclusions in the matter of art 
expression. "4° 

In expressionist Germany, Hartley found valida- 
tion for his earliest thoughts about art. Preconditioned, 
as Americans were in his time, to inferiority before 
European models, Hartley went abroad in the first place 
to gain the sophistication of an artist's education. A 
virtual requirement of that education was some term of 
expatriation on European soil. In his discovery that 
his German contemporaries held "the same conclusions," 
Hartley found release from any lingering self-conscious- 
ness regarding the validity of his artistic objectives. If the 
most cosmopolitan vanguard in Germany held beliefs 
approximate to his own, then any doubt about the merit 
of his aesthetic approach was no longer appropriate. 
As a result, Hartley gained new confidence in his goals as 
an artist and translated that confidence into innovative 
and assertive art. 

His adoption of Native-American imagery is a 
measure of that new self-reliance. He acknowledged 
with pride his American "essence" in writing, but 
still sought the means to give it voice in his art. Upon 
return to Berlin from his visit to the States in early 
1914, Hartley's awareness of national consciousness 
would have been high. The culture shock alone from 
changed customs and surroundings would have thrown 
up the question of national identity. Choosing to 
work with the subject of the Native American, Hartley 

called attention to himself as an American producing 
consciously American work. In Germany, he would have 
known that his depiction of American-Indian culture, 
rendered however radically, had a certainly receptive 
audience. In fact, in the context of Germany, he was 
working a popular theme. 

Ultimately, Hartley's Indians tell of "human 
dignity" and American pride. As inhabitants of America's 
wilderness, this race drew from the earth and skies a 
humble awareness of spirit. Rather than paint reminders 
of America's technological greatness, Hartley crafted 
work about another America, an Indian's America. Thus, 
he extolled the wisdom to be gained from nature's 
lessons, a wisdom that sprang from individual perception 
of spiritual essence. 

His selection of Native- American imagery played 
to a known German interest on the one hand, but on 
another it demonstrated Hartley's effort to expose 
himself for what he was and to create an art distinct in 
its Americanness. In this too he reflected the goals of 
transcendentalism, for Emerson and Whitman after him 
encouraged artists to establish and enrich an identifiably 
American contribution to the fine arts. Hartley attempt- 
ed to do just that by utilizing the Indian to indicate what 
he perceived as positive qualities of the American experi- 

In summary, Indian Fantasy and its companions in 
the 19 1 4 Amerika series mirror the unique German and 
American contexts of their making. These paintings 
express an American consciousness at the same time that 
they reference a German interest in the American 
frontier and the Indian's idealized life in communion 
with nature. And it seems that Hartley recognized 
the influence his German experience had had upon him. 
He wrote, "I have learned that what I came for is not 
to find art but to find myself + this I have done."^ 1 The 
paintings of the Amerika series show this artist grappling 
with the means to get that new self-knowledge onto 
the canvas. 

Patricia McDonnell is curator of the Frederick R. Weisman 
Art Museum, University of Minnesota. 



[291 Gallery, New York, 1916]; Mr. and Mrs. Charles J. 
Liebman, New York, 191 5; Liebman Sale, New York, Parke- 
Bernet, 7 December 1955, lot 68; [Martha Jackson Gallery, New 
York]; [with Nelson-Taylor Consultant Gallery, New York, 1959]; 
Dr. and Mrs. Norman Simon, New York, 1959; [Andre 
Emmerich Gallery, New York, 1974]; [with Hirschl and Adler 
Galleries, New York, 1974]; sold to the North Carolina 
Museum of Art, 1975. 

Select Exhibitions 

Berlin, Miinchener Graphik-Verlag, October-November 1915. 

New York, 291 Gallery, "Marsden Hartley," 4 Apnl-22 
May 1916. 

Wilmington, Delaware Art Museum, "Avant-Garde Painting 
and Sculpture in America, 1910—25," 4 April- 18 May 1975. 

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, "Marsden 
Hartley," 4 March-25 May 1980, then traveling, no. 28. 

New York, Museum of Modern Art, '"Primitivism' in 20th 
Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern," 
19 September 1 984-1 5 January 1985, then traveling. 

Select Bibliography 

"American Artist Astounds Germans." New York Times 
(19 December 1915): 4. 

Levin, Gail. "Marsden Hartley, Kandinsky, and Der Blaue Reiter." 
Arts 52 (November 1977); 156-60. 

Barry, Roxana. "The Age of Blood and Iron: Marsden Hartley in 
Berlin." Arts 54 (October 1979): 166-71. 

Temkin, Ann. "Marsden Hartley's 'America': The 1914 Indian 
Compositions." Unpublished seminar paper, Yale University, 

Broder, Patricia Janis. "Die American West: The Modem Vision. 
Boston: Little, Brown, 1984: (Chapter 7: "Marsden Hartley : In 
Search of American Icons, 128—49). 

Garrels, Gary. "Sequence and Significance of the 1914 Marsden 
Hartley Paintings." M.A. thesis, Boston University, 1984. 

Scott, Gail R. Marsden Hartley. New York: Abbeville, 1988. 

Ludington, Townsend. Marsden Hartley: Biography of an American 
Artist. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. 


I wish to thank Gail R. Scott. 

[. Marsden Hartley to Alfred Stieglitz, February 191 3, Collection of 
American Literature, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript 
Library, Yale University. (Letters and manuscripts from this source 
are hereafter cited as Yale.) 

2. Hartley exhibited five works. The other American entrants were 
Albert Bloch, Patrick Henry Bruce, and Lyonel Feininger. For 
information on this historic survey exhibition, see Mario-Andreas 
von Liittichau, "Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon, Berlin 1913," in 
Stationen der Moderne. Die bedentenden Kunstausstellungen des 20. 

Jahrhunderts in Deutschland (Berlin: Berlimsche Galerie, 1989), 
i3i _ 53- For recent literature on Der Sturm, see Georg Briihl, 
Herwarth Walden und Der Sturm (Cologne: Dumont Buchverlag, 

3. Hartley to Gertrude Stein, early December 1913, Yale. 

4. Hartley to Stieglitz, September 28, 1913, Yale. 

5. Hartley to Stieglitz, May-June 1913 and August 1913, Yale. 

6. Hartley to Stieglitz, February 191 3, Yale. 

7. Hartley to Stieglitz, November 8, 1914, Yale. 

8. Hartley to Stieglitz, November 3, 1914, Yale. 

9. Ann Temkin was the first to identify these four paintings as the 
full complement of the Amerika series in her "Marsden Hartley's 
'America': The 1914 Indian Compositions," unpublished seminar 
paper, Yale University, 1983. A condensed version of this thesis 
was delivered at the Sixth Annual Whitney Symposium on 
American Art, New York, April 25, 1983. 

10. Gail Levin, "Wassily Kandinsky and the American Avant-Garde, 
1912— 1950," Ph.D. dissertation, Rutgers University, 1976), 120 
(Hereafter cited as Levin, 1976); Gail Levin, "American Art," in 
"Primitivism" in Twentieth Century Art (New York: Museum of 
Modern Art, 1984), 455-61; and Temkin. In 1912 in Paris, the 
Trocadero, France's museum showcase for tribal art, also 
attracted Hartley. 

1 1 . Marsden Hartley, "Somehow a Past," unpublished autobiography, 


12. Gail Levin, "American Art," in "Primitivism" in 20th Century Art: 
Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, 459. 

13. "American Artist Astounds Germans," New York Times 6 

(19 December 19 15): 4. 

14. The title derives from Hartley's report in his 3 November 1914 
letter to Stieglitz that he had recently turned to "working out 
some war motives," Yale. 

15. See Hugh Honour, The New Golden Land: European Images of 
America from the Discoveries to the Present Time (New York: 
Pantheon, 1975). 

16. The phrase is from G. W. F. Hegel, Tlie Philosophy of History 
(1830-1831); as quoted in Honour, 248. 

17. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Origin of Inequality Among Men 
(1754); as quoted in Roxana Barry, "Rousseau, Buffalo Bill and 
the European Image of the American Indian," Art News 74 
(December 1975): 58. 

18. Preston Barba, "The American Indian in German Fiction," 
German American Annals n.s. 11 (May-August 1913): 147. 

19. William Cullen Bryant, Discourse on the Life and Genius of James 
Fenimore Cooper (1852); as quoted in D. L. Ashliman, "The 
American West in Twentieth Century Germany," Journal of 
Popular Culture 2 (Summer 1968): 82. 

20. "Karl der Deutsche," Spiegel 16 (12 September 1962): 73; as 

quoted in Richard Cracroft, "The American West of Karl May," 
American Quarterly 19 (Summer 1967): 249. 

21. Cracroft, 257. 

22. For this critique of the conservative and nationalist underpinnings 
of May's writing, see Jochen Schulte-Sasse, "Karl Mays Amerika- 
Exotik und deutsche Wirklichkeit." Karl May, ed. Hans Schmiedt 
(Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1983), 101-29. 

6 4 

23. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, "Den Vereinigten Staaten," The 
Permanent Goethe, ed. Thomas Mann (New York: Dial Press, 
1948), 655. 

24. John Czaplicka traces these evolving perceptions of America in 
Germany and their embodiment in artistic depictions in his 

"Amerikabilder and the German Discourse on Modern Civilization, 
1 890-1925," in Envisioning America: Prints, Drawings and 
Photographs by George Grosz and His Contemporaries, 1915—1933 
(Cambridge: Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University, 
1990), 37-6i- 

25. For a study of the multiple effects of industrialization of Berlin, 
seejochen Boberg, Tilman Fichter, Eckhart Gillen, eds., Die 
Metropole. Industriekultur in Berlin im 10. Jahrhundert (Munich: 
C.H. Beck, 1986). 

26. Americans also perpetuated falsehoods about life on the Western 
frontier, and artists helped sustain them. For new analysis of 
this situation in American art history, see William H. Truettner, 
ed., Tlie West as America: Reinterpreting Images of the Frontier, 
1820-1920 (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American 
Art, 1991). 

27. Klaus Lankheit, ed., Der Blaue Reiter Almanac (1912; New York: 
Viking Press, 1974), 88. 

28. Beeke Sell Tower documents these German-American connec- 
tions in her "Asphaltcowboys and Stadtindianer: Imagining the Far 
West." Envisioning America, 26. 

29. Hartley to Stieglitz, 12 November 19 14, Yale. Hartley's stay in 
New Mexico in 191 8— 19 prompted him to publish several articles 
in the early 1920s elaborating his esteem for Native- American cul- 
ture. The artist's perceptions would have been conditioned by the 
rising nationalism of postwar America and thus are not cited here 
out of context. 

30. Patricia Broder pointed out correctly that Hartley had had a prior 
interest in the "primitive" in her "Marsden Hartley: In Search 

of American Icons," in The American West: Tlie Modern Vision 
(Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1980), 134. 

3 1 . Hartley did sell some work during his one-and-a-half-year 
residence in Berlin but never came close to supporting himself 
from the proceeds of German sales. His greatest coup came at 
the end of his stay, with the one-man exhibition at the galleries of 
the Miinchener Graphik-Verlag on fashionable Panser Platz. 
Hartley presented forty-five paintings and several drawings in this 
exhibition, including Indian Fantasy. 

32. For studies of the importance of transcendentahst thought for 
Hartley, see in particular Matthew Baigell, "American Landscape 
Painting and National Identity: The Stieglitz Circle and Emerson." 
Art Criticism 4, no I (1987): 27-47; and the chapter on Hartley in 
my "American Artists in Expressionist Berlin: Ideological 
Crosscurrents in the Early Modernism of America and Germany, 
1905-1915," Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 1991. 

33. Hartley to Franz Marc, 2 June 191 3, Archiv fur Bildende Kunst, 
Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg; as quoted in my 

"Letters of Marsden Hartley to Franz Marc and Wassily 
Kandinsky, 1913-1914," Archives of American Art Journal 29, nos. 
1-2 (1989): 40. (Hereafter cited as "Letters.") Hartley, 
"Somehow a Past" (unpublished autobiography), Yale. 

34. Hartley to Stieglitz, 28 September 1913, Yale. 

35. Hartley to Stieglitz, May 1913, Yale. 

36. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance," Tlie Essays oj Ralph 
Waldo Emerson, ed. Alfred R. Ferguson and Jean Ferguson Carr 
(Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), 27. 

37. Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912; New 
York: Wittenborn, Schulz, 1947), 77- Franz Marc, Franz Marc, 
1880-1916 (Berkeley: University Art Museum, University 

of California, 1980), 59. 

38. Franz Marc, as translated in Charles W. Haxthausen, Modern 
German Masterpieces from the Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis: 
St. Louis Art Museum, 1986), 53. 

39. Hartley to Gertrude Stein, 18 October 1913, Yale. 

40. Hartley to Franz Marc, 29 May 1913, "Letters," 39. 

41. Ibid. 

North Carolina Museum of Art Bulletin. Volume XVI, 1993 

The North Carolina Museum of Art is an agency of the Department 
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